Monday, February 25, 2013

Around The Nation

Texas Republican Lawmakers Threaten To Cut Funding For Pro-LGBTQ Rights School Districts
AUSTIN, TX -- A pair of Republican Texas lawmakers have introduced two pieces of anti-gay legislation, one which would cut funding for schools and universities that have policies in place that support LGBT students, faculty, or staff. The other measure would allow discrimination based on religious beliefs.
Last Wednesday, State Representative Drew Springer filed House Bill 1568, a measure that would reduce a school district’s healthcare funding by 7.5 percent if they offer Domestic Partner benefits to anyone other than an employee or a dependent of an employee. 
Springer announced that he had taken this action after the suburban Austin, Texas Pflugerville School District offered insurance benefits to same-sex couples in domestic partnerships last fall. Pflugerville Superintendent Charles Dupre said the decision to extend benefits to the partners of same-sex employees came out of discussions about workplace diversity.
“We can talk about being inclusive and talk about valuing people, but if you have people in your organization who feel like you have practices that are discriminatory, then why don’t you make some of these changes that will make me feel included?” Dupre said.
Pflugerville's benefits took effect January 1.  
“Our tax-dollars are for educating kids, not for enacting policies that attempt to get the state to recognize homosexual relationships,” Springer said in a press release. “To think Pflugerville has sued the state for more funding, while at the same time bankrolling a lifestyle most Texans do not agree with is quite disturbing to me.”
Chuck Smith, the Executive Director of Equality Texas told LGBTQ Nation Monday afternoon in an interview that his group sees Springer's bill as overreaching.
"He is not directly affected by this school district's actions," Smith said. "HB 1568 creates a tax on local control by reducing state funding for school districts whose locally elected officials decide to offer benefits to the non-dependent household members of school employees, including employee’s same-gender partners. "
Smith added that "Locally elected officials are in the best position to make local decisions about what benefits are needed to hire and retain the best educators. They don’t need big state government coming in and pulling the strings. 
HB 1568 is yet another piece of legislative overreach that seeks to undermine school district trustees’ local control over personnel and HR matters. HB 1568 puts extreme ideology ahead of the best interest of children. We don’t need a tax on local control."
The other anti-gay measure, House Bill 360, introduced by freshman GOP lawmaker Matt Krause- a lawyer who is affiliated with the anti-gay Liberty Counsel- would deny state funding to colleges and universities, including private institutions, that require a “student organization, including a religious student organization, to allow any student enrolled at the institution to participate in the organization, regardless of the student’s beliefs or status, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.”
House Bill 360 states that colleges requiring a religious organization to accept any member regardless of “status or beliefs” violates the First Amendment, “including the rights of free exercise of religion and of freedom of association.”
Elliott Griffin, Krause’s chief of staff did tell media outlets that the bill was under going revision to narrow its focus however, the core of its intent would be unchanged.
A similar measure has recently passed in the Virginia General Assembly.