On April 4, the Texas House of Representatives passed the state budget for the next two years. Who were the winners? Gun owners? Teachers? Republicans? Sure, but those groups always win. This time, the LGBT community of Texas secured a small, but not unnoticed, victory.
With a passionate group cheering on the event, Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, pulled his own amendment off the House floor. The failure of the amendment to pass, which would have stripped funding for gender and sexuality centers in state institutions of higher education (University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and University of Houston), was a win for a group that has rarely been a winner in the Texas Legislature. It was largely thanks to UT students from Texas StandOut (a queer advocacy group on campus) that LGBT students in Texas were given a voice.
How did a group of college students cause change in times when people’s voices are drowned out by a bureaucratic government and viral Internet sound bites? Did they parade around the Capitol and cause massive unrest? No. Did they argue that what Zedler was doing was morally wrong and unfair? No. Did they denigrate Zedler by calling him “prejudiced” and “backward?” No. Instead, they did it by using facts — not public opinion.
The students of Texas StandOut realized that if they fought a war on principles, they would lose. This is, after all, the Texas Legislature, and the conservative views of most representatives are not favorable toward the LGBT community. But that didn’t matter. The students proved that our representatives can make an informed decision when given the right facts and qualified information.
Zedler had proposed the amendment on the basis that these centers increase the rates of people who can contract HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases. Contrary to his beliefs, study after study has shown that such centers actually lower the number of people who get these diseases. Also, these diseases are not limited to the gay and transgender communities, but instead are diseases that are common in the entire population. These centers are helping, not hurting.
Zedler’s office offered no comment on this story. It was a good answer on his part. What else could you say if an amendment you proposed that clearly lacked merit was struck down by both sides of the aisle? That is the result of a conversation on policy by a well-informed electorate.
Frequently in politics, we get stuck in a conversation based on personal views. Some people believe a woman should have a choice on aborting a child while others believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. No one’s hands are clean, as Republicans and Democrats have both made every single issue an issue of personal belief. Whether it is health care, gun laws, gay marriage or anything else that is a hot topic, both sides engage in conversations grounded solely on personal beliefs. What gets lost in all of this muck is the truth. If a group of students from Texas StandOut has taught us anything, it is that sometimes, facts alone speak louder than the loudest speaker.
Lakhani is a finance sophomore from Sugar Land.