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Texas May Finally Add Gender Identity to Hate-Crimes Law

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Similar bills have been introduced several times, but sponsors think this one will pass.

Texas legislators have introduced a bill to add crimes based on gender identity to the state's hate-crimes law.

"There is no reason to not have transgender [protections listed] in the Hate Crimes Act or [to have] any other barriers to transgender Texans," Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston, the bill's lead author, said at a press conference Monday, according to OutSmart, a Houston LGBTQ publication.

Texas's James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, passed in 2001, allows trial courts to enhance penalties for crimes motivated by the victim's real or perceived race, religion, color, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age, or national origin, but it does not include gender identity.

Coleman has introduced the bill several times during the past decade, but he expressed confidence that it will finally pass this session. "People have a better understanding of transgender Texans than before," he said at the press conference.

There are 1.4 million transgender Texans, said trans activist Monica Roberts, who attended the press event and noted some major violent crimes committed against trans Texans recently.

"In January, we witnessed in Houston an outright attempt on a transgender woman who was shot three times at point-blank range at a gas station," she said, according to Houston's KRIV TV station.

The bill's introduction also comes shortly after multiple attackers beat a trans woman at her apartment complex in Dallas in mid-April while dozens of people simply looked on.

Coauthors are Reps. Jessica Gonzalez, Julie Johnson, Rafael Anchia, and Ron Reynolds, all Democrats. Gonzalez and Johnson are founding members of the state legislature's first LGBTQ Caucus.

"When we as a society allow hate against any one group of people, we hate us all," Johnson said at the Monday event.

The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on the bill this week, but it has yet to vote the legislation out of committee.

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