Tuesday evening the Texas legislature adjourned sine die a day ahead of schedule, signaling the close of an utterly exhausting and thoroughly hateful special session. Thanks to the tireless efforts of so many incredible Texas advocates, activists, and individuals, the legislature failed to pass anti-trans language of any flavor, be it bathroom (like SB3) or preemption (like HB46). However, at a cost to Texans of over a million dollars, lawmakers certainly managed to pass anti-person language, including additional abortion restrictions in a state already buckling under a maternal mortality rate that “now exceeds that of anywhere else in the developed world.” Measures like these add to the damage done to human dignity in the 85th regular session, which ended tellingly with a Republican Representative claiming to have called ICE on hundreds of protesters who packed the gallery. These new attacks join the despicable ranks of racist “papers please” bill SB4, LGBT foster discrimination bill SB3859, and aggressive abortion restriction bill SB8 from earlier this year.
We had organizers in the state for the special session’s kickoff and the #HereToSlay TPOC capitol takeover with Organization de Latina Trans en Texas, Aqui Estamos RGV, and Familia. During both visits, I was awestruck by the passion, dedication, and sheer power of the grassroots resistance, and I am excited to see that coalitions built this summer are only growing stronger, more determined, and more close-knit. One Texas Resistance turned out rally after rally at the capitol and helped activists unite across issues. In the long, winding line to sign up for testimony against anti-trans SB3, people swapped directions to other committee rooms to support public education and bodily autonomy. Despite legislative tactics more appropriate for street magic than democracy – shell games with bill numbers and language hidden and produced like a rabbits out of hats – the community was undeterred. As the session wound down, activists kept up the pressure, and last ditch plans to tack bathroom amendments onto other measures (a tactic that caused no small amount of chaos in the regular session) never found traction. Barring a possible redistricting session to address Congressional districts a federal court recently found so thoroughly gerrymandered as to be unconstitutional, the Texas legislature should be slouching back into its cave to hibernate until 2019.
I celebrate the fruits of this hard work, and I see the organizing in Texas as a bright light in dark times. However, I am resisting the urge to claim even temporary victory. These transphobic bills were defeated for the second time in a row, despite being a Republican priority in a Republican state with a Republican government, but more like them will be filed. And while we fended off this attack, Texans still face a terrifying status quo. Transgender immigrants will take the brunt of SB4. SB8 will cut people off from reproductive health care, which trans people already struggle to access. Trans woman of color Kenne McFadden was killed in San Antonio in April, and we’re just learning today about the murder of Gwynevere River Song in Dallas.
I am deeply grateful to and proud of the people and organizations on the ground behind this campaign. The view from my phone Tuesday night – happy videos, relieved selfies, and heartfelt community affirmations from remarkable Texas activists I’m humbled to support – was a bright counterpoint to this weekend’s deadly fascist terrorist attack in Charlottesville and the ensuing white supremacist apologia. But every passing day makes it ever more clear that there’s more work to do. TLC stands ready to do it, and I know Texas does too.
This post, by TLC Policy Coordinator Corinne Green, is part of our Policy Desk series.