Close to 100 LGBT community members and allies packed into a lecture hall at the UT School of Law Thursday night to discuss ways to promote LGBT advocacy
The Austin LGBT Bar Association, UT Outlaw, Equality Texas, Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and American Civil Liberties Union partnered to host the summit. The event had several panels, which brought community leaders together to discuss potential federal and state laws that may threaten equality, as well as to discuss ways to participate in society in an impactful way.
Elizabeth Brenner, Austin LGBT Bar Association Board of Directors member, kicked off the night by asking audience members to commit to support the LGBT community through actions such as donating to the organizations at the event and participating in the various marches this weekend, one being the Women’s March on Austin downtown on Saturday.
“The big question for the evening is what do we do,” Brenner said. “How can we as individuals make an impact? The short answer is to do what we’ve always done
The first speaker, State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said she has found success in recent years representing the gay community and gay allies at the Texas Legislature.
“You want your legislature to be cohesive,” Israel said. “When we tear each other up over social issues, we do harm to the Texas we love.”
Israel said she would continue to represent the interests of the gay community during the 85th Legislative Session.
“On day 141 I want you join me in victory,” Israel said.
Chuck Smith, chief executive officer of Equality Texas, addressed the controversial Senate Bill 6, also known as the “bathroom bill.”
“The bill [is] about discrimination,” Smith said. “It’s about preventing transgender people from participating in public life.”
SB 6 has received support from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who said the bill represents “common decency, common sense and public safety.” House speaker Joe Straus has spoken out against the bill, citing negative economic outcomes to Texas if the bill were to be passed.
Smith also talked about legislative bills to do away with non-discrimination ordinances in Texas as well as bills allowing religious
refusals. In 2015, 22 bills relating to religious refusal were filed, Smith said. “[These bills are] seeking to redefine the existing protections of the first amendment,” Smith said.
District 6 City Council member Jimmy Flannigan spoke on a panel to promote the importance of LGBT leadership in the community. Flannigan previously served as president of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which he said played a major part in him winning his current seat.
“The election was won because of the decade of work I’d done,” Flannigan said.
Flannigan doesn’t consider getting elected to office the only way to promote LGBT leadership. Showing leadership in your neighborhood with organizations like the local parent teacher association can help, Flannigan said.
Edgar Gierbolini, Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce member, ended the night by reinforcing the importance of community.
“Community is what we create when we are brought together under a common purpose,” Gierbolini said. “We’re all part of a unique rainbow-hued family. When we work together as a family we can do fabulous things.”