Students and community members gathered Thursday night to hear from experts about how widespread misconceptions can carry over into state legislation.
The panel at the Texas Rising’s event “Lies into Laws” addressed misconceptions surrounding state legislative actions on rights for the LGBTQ community, women and undocumented workers. Texas Rising has 12 other chapters across the state, and this is one of 10 “Lies into Laws” forums they have sponsored.
“The Texas legislative session ended and so did the special session this summer,” Texas Rising president Jensen Soderlund said. “What we wanted to do was make sure it was still on people’s minds to make sure what they knew what to do for the next session.”
Sissi Yado, one of the panelists from Human Rights Campaign, addressed specific lies that led to the 2015 failure of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which would have protected rights of LGBTQ individuals in Houston.
“Our opponents came out with this really strong message of fear, ringing the alarm saying ‘No men in women’s restrooms,’” Yado said. “Because the election was a month away, it caught everyone by surprise instead of recognizing the good this ballot could do in Houston.”
The panel also discussed the impact of bills brought up in the most recent state legislative sessions, such as House Bill 3859, which allows child welfare organizations to use religion as a reason to turn away same-sex couples.
“They could be turned away on the basis of who they are and who they love,” Yado said. “This was the one bill that did pass this past legislative session, and we are working against it and fighting it in the court of law.”
Sociology junior Mallory Culbert said she attended the forum with other members from Students for Planned Parenthood.
“I learned a lot about how to call other people to action, how to appeal to other people to have conversations,” Culbert said. “I think a lot people who are a part of these minority groups in the U.S., especially racial minorities or LGBT community, can find these things to be relatable.”
Government sophomor Soderlund said Texas Rising’s main goal is to educate students and the community about what is going on in Texas and what they can do to fight back.
“I know that a lot of times it feels like as a young person there’s not a lot you can do,” Soderlund said. “The goal of this is to show what has happened and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”