Texas Lawmaker Proposes Ban on Sexual Orientation Discrimination

A state representative from San Antonio has introduced a bill into the Texas house of representatives that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill would make Texas one of the new states to recognize this type of discrimination specifically and establish a protected class for employees with nonconforming gender identities. This is the sixth time that the representative has introduced this measure, and this time he believes that the chances of passage are higher than ever. This session a companion bill was also introduced to the state senate.

Currently, federal law does not protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender employees from discrimination based on those categories. This means that is it lawful for employers to fire someone simply because they are gay. Texas is current among the majority of states that do not have anti-discrimination laws addressing this issue. Only 21 states currently ban discrimination against LGBT employees.

Advocates for anti-discrimination protection for LGBT employees have high hopes since President Obama's second inaugural address specifically mentioned the issues of LGBT rights and the ongoing question for equality.

However, some small business owners in Texas have concerns about increased protections, noting that it could give rise to increased healthcare costs if the antidiscrimination laws require them to cover same-sex partners. On the other hand, this would be a huge economic benefit to same-sex families who have previously been unable to qualify for some employer-provided health insurance plans.

Other businesses have taken an opposite tact, affirmatively offering benefits to LGBT employees and fostering voluntary internal anti-discrimination policies.

Source: Texas Tribune, "Bills Protect Gays in Employment Discrimination," Elena Schneider, Jan. 25, 2013.