Senate bill looks to protect LGBT employees

Texas employees can be fired based on sexual orientatoin, gender identity


SAN ANTONIO - State Senators heard testimony Wednesday on Senate Bill 237, which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Texas is one of 29 states where a person can legally be fired because they’re gay, lesbian or transgender.

"Think about people in the workplace who are doing a great job, who's job performance is not questioned, they can be fired and discriminated against just because they are gay,” said Senator Leticia van de Putte (D-San Antonio). “That has no place in the work place."

Iraq War veteran, and Purple Heart recipient, Eric Alva testified before the Senate Committee on Economic Development Wednesday.

He said many people do not know that Texas currently has no laws to protect people in the LGBT community from workplace discrimination.

"It's just amazing how people don’t see this as a problem,” Alva said. “It's denying people the same opportunity and availabilities to have a successful life."

Senator Van de Putte said changing the law is more than a moral issue, it’s good economic policy.

“If major companies are thinking of expanding here in Texas, part of it is understanding that we've got to be a state that embraces people's skill sets and their knowledge and their work ethic, not who they happen to be in love with."

Opponents of the bill contend that it will open the door to frivolous lawsuits from employees who believe they were fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Van de Putte disagreed and said the law would only allow a person to bring a discrimination complaint before the Texas Workforce Commission, which would investigate the claim and determine whether it was valid.

Given the heavily conservative legislature, Van de Putte said she does not have enough votes in the committee to bring the bill to the senate floor.

Alva is hopeful that public pressure will help the bill move forward. “This is wrong,” he said. “Not just wrong, it's cruel."

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