Dalila Ali Rajah
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How Out Texas Rep. Celia Israel Put Voting Rights First in 2021

Celia Israel

Celia Israel, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, stood for her principles this year even though it meant personal sacrifice. She was set to marry her partner of 26 years, Celinda Garza, on the House floor July 15, but she ended up leaving Texas for Washington, D.C., three days earlier with more than 50 other House Democrats so there would not be the number of representatives required to vote on a Republican-backed voter suppression bill. They returned eventually, though, and a later version of the bill passed. But Israel doesn’t regret her action one bit.

“This summer, I was part of something larger than myself when my colleagues and I broke quorum in defense of voting rights and took the fight to Washington, D.C.,” she says. “During a year in which Texas was reeling from the effects of a polar vortex that killed hundreds and a pandemic where nearly 70,000 Texans have needlessly lost their lives, I’ve stood firm to call out the misplaced priorities of the Texas legislature, where our democratic institutions, reproductive rights, and the LGBTQ community have been targeted.”

“I fight for everyone who knows rather than using transgender children as political piñatas to placate 5 percent of the electorate, we should be working together on solutions to the gaps in our health care and infrastructure,” she adds. “What is happening in our politics today is a stain on the state that I love. What motivates me are the young voters and people of color who know what’s happening now in Texas and around the country is not normal and who are making their voices heard.”

Israel is now being motivated to seek a different office. She announced in September that she will not seek reelection to the House, where she has represented an Austin district since 2014, and will instead consider a run for mayor of the Texas capital next year. The current mayor, Steve Adler, cannot run again due to term limits. She has formed an exploratory committee with a diversity of members.

And Israel and Garza will have their wedding. They’re planning a Texas-size ceremony and party for next spring.


This story is part of The Advocate’s 2021 People of the Year issue, which is out on newsstands Nov. 23, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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