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Will LGBTQ+ People and Allies in Texas Need to Flee the State?

Texas state Rep. Jessica González

Lesbian Texas State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez on the state's GOP cruelty and what it means for LGBTQ+ Texans.

There was an article recently in the Texas Standard about LGBTQ+ Texans reconsidering their future in the state. In the story, Texas real estate broker Bob McCranie talks about a new relocation service he launched called Flee Texas, which is designed to help queer people sell their house and find a trusted real estate agent in another state -- a state with more reliable protection of LGBTQ+ rights.

The article goes on to say that McCranie started thinking about launching his new website around the time a draft leaked of the Dobbs Supreme Court opinion, which ended up overturning Roe v. Wade."A lot of the LGBTQ people I hang out with were having this conversation quietly," McCranie told the Standard. "And as the decision leaked and things were happening, I was like, I need to take some action on this."

This all of course is also a response to the Texas GOP. When I first saw the news about what the Texas state Republicans did at their party's biennial convention in Houston last month, I felt like I was in a time machine, transported back to the 1960s when homosexuality was considered abhorrent, illegal, and immoral, and so many of us were repressed by society.

Their grotesque platform also has shades of the 1992 presidential election. One of that year's candidates, Pat Buchanan, whose homophobia was only outdone by his former boss Richard Nixon, led the way in condemning our community. His speech at the 1992 Republican Convention was mortifying.

Buchanan pushed for language in the party's platform that matched his bigotry. It was all about "family values." The party's platform that year said that American families were under assault and because of that included this line: "We oppose any legislation or law which legally recognizes same-sex marriages and allows such couples to adopt children or provide foster care."

This year's Texas Republican Party's platform reads like a screed from that time, when gays were "destroying" American families.

The party approved a plank that said LGBTQ+ people should not be legally protected from discrimination and that being gay or trans is a choice. "Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice," the document reads. "We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin, and we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values."

Reading the plank about our community left me feeling angry, exasperated, confused, and sickened. It also made me feel awful for LGBTQ+ people living in Texas, especially families. "Why in the hell would you stay there?" I asked a lesbian friend of mine who is married with two children. "Why don't you go somewhere else?" She replied, "That's easier said than done. There's the cost, schools to consider, the kids' friends, our jobs. Some days it would be great to pack and move."

She added, "Besides, it won't be too long until the Supreme Court invalidates our marriages. Would we be forced to pack up and move again if elsewhere our nuptials were deemed invalid? It's hard to feel safe anywhere with all that's coming after us. Plus someone has to stay here and fight."

That's exactly what lesbian Texas state Rep. Jessica Gonzalez intends to do. She represents the Texas House of Representatives' 104th District, which includes central and eastern Grand Prairie and a portion of west Dallas. Previously, Gonzalez was a legislative assistant to Congresswoman Karen Bass. Last year, Gonzalez married Angela Hale.

I wanted Gonzalez's point of view about the implications of the state Republican platform, how others really feel about it, and if she thinks that the Texas bigotry will spread to other states. What follows is a condensed version of our conversation.

The Advocate: What are we to make of the anti-LGBTQ Republican platform?
Jessica Gonzalez: Every session, Texas Republicans have attacked the LGBTQ+ community. This new party platform doubles down on their hateful rhetoric. Their understanding of the LGBTQ+ community is based on conspiracies rather than on science and fact. In the last legislative session, over 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed in the Texas legislature. With this platform, we can expect a continuance of these discriminatory policies when the legislature returns in January.

Do you think something this severe will resonate with a plurality of Texans?
It will not. Seventy percent of Texans, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, support Texas passing a comprehensive nondiscrimination law including LGBTQ+ individuals. This platform continues to show that Republicans are out of touch with the priorities of everyday Texans. We have real issues in our state that Republicans continue to ignore and instead propel culture war issues. Texans are tired of this.

Why is something like this so dangerous for not only LGBTQ community and allies in Texas but elsewhere?
Discrimination and attacks toward the LGBTQ+ community are on the rise again. Just a few weeks ago in my hometown of Dallas, we saw extremists go harass LGBTQ+ families and allies at Pride events. When Republican lawmakers spread hateful messaging toward the LGBTQ+ community, it is validating the small group of individuals who think our lives are not equal because of the characteristics we were born with. As a society, we should be focusing on advancing equality, not singling out a certain group of people.

Any chance that this new platform will backfire? Will people think the Republicans are trying to take us back to the dark ages?
It will backfire. We have so many issues in Texas that we need to deal with. Our electric grid failed Texans when they needed it the most during Winter Storm Uri, our schools remain underfunded as students try to recover from COVID learning losses, and we have one of the highest uninsured populations in the nation. There are solutions to these issues that we can take to benefit all Texans, but Republicans' priorities continue to be focused on discriminatory legislation.

Are any of your Republican colleagues coming to you and offering support and quietly telling you that they don't support this plank in the platform?
Any time there is an anti-LGBTQ+ bill or amendment on the House floor, Republican lawmakers come to me and other open LGBTQ+ members and tell us how much they do not want to vote for the bill or amendment. Oftentimes, many Republican members don't want these extreme policies to pass as much as Democrats. But they are worried about their primary elections and support it anyway.

Do you fear that what Texas Republicans did will be replicated by other red state Republican parties?
Throughout the nation, we have unfortunately seen an increase of anti-LGBTQ bills filed in state legislatures. I hope other state Republican parties will focus on real issues affecting their states instead of adopting party platforms embedded in hate and discrimination.

What message do you have for all of those LGBTQ+ individuals, families, and allies who are considering leaving Texas?
My heart breaks for the Texas families being forced to consider leaving their homes to protect their children and their safety. Texas should be a place for everyone, no matter your sexual orientation or gender identity. These Texans are just trying to earn a living and take care of their families while being bullied by the Texas Republican Party. For our state to continue being a welcoming place for economic development and population growth, we need a statewide comprehensive nondiscrimination law so everyone in Texas -- including the LGBTQ+ community -- is safe and protected.

Any message of hope that you would like to add?
The majority of Texans stand with the LGBTQ+ community and support equal rights. I am proud to serve as vice chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, and we vow to always stand up and fight against these discriminatory attacks toward our community. I want every LGBTQ+ Texan to know we are constantly fighting for them, and we will not give up until we can achieve full equality under the law.

John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate's opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, Equal Pride.

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