5 GetEqual TX Activists Arrested for Workplace Equality
Five people were arrested at the Texas Capitol on May Day morning last week as GetEqual TX staged a sit-in at four Texas State Senators offices. Activists hope to pressure legislators to schedule SB237, the “Fair Employment Act,” for a vote. If passed, it would make it illegal for employers in the state to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Activists for any group that wants to lobby the legislature are under added pressure because the state’s bicameral house of government meets for only 140 days out of every two years, and only a few weeks of the 2013 session remain. These sit-ins come after an escalating series of direct actions.
Tiffani Bishop, the Central Texas Lead for GetEqual TX told me:
We’ve literally exhausted all other options. We’ve marched, lobbied, petitioned, visited their offices personally, and called their offices every single day for the last 2 months. At this point, nonviolent civil disobedience is our only option.
While nationally, media attention and lobbyist efforts seem focused on the issue of marriage, in a majority of states the ability to find and keep employment for LGBTQ workers is threatened on a daily basis. According to statistics provided by GetEqual TX:
– An estimated 431,000 members of the Texas workforce identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
– 26% of transgender Texans report being fired solely based on their gender identity.
– 12% of lesbian and gay Texans report being fired because of their sexual orientation.
– 37% of gay and lesbian Texans report being harassed at work due to their sexual orientation .
The day began early as over a dozen activists gathered in a parking garage near the Texas Capitol at 8am and were immediately spotted by a bicycle-mounted Texas State Trooper. By noon, the five activists had been arrested and the rest dispersed.
SB237 remains unscheduled, with Senator Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury publicly opposed to the bill; other members of the Committee on Economic Development refused to comment for this story. GetEqual TX members met Monday and plan to continue direct actions. [cont’d.]