Five out Democrats in Texas have formed the first LGBT+ caucus in the state’s legislature.
The five lawmakers came together to launch the first official LGBT+ caucus, which will fight for equal rights in the traditionally-conservative, Republican-controlled state.
The LGBT+ caucus will be chaired by state representative Mary González, who was only the second out lawmaker in Texas history when she was elected in 2012.
She will be joined by all of the state’s other out lawmakers—Celia Israel, who was elected in 2014, as well as Jessica González, Julie Johnson and Erin Zwiener, all elected in 2018.
The group has an uphill battle on the state legislature, where the Republican Party has held a majority since 2003.
Despite protests from Democrats, Texas lawmakers passed a bill in 2017 that permits adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective gay parents, while there have been multiple efforts in the state to pass anti-transgender ‘bathroom bill’ legislation.
Speaking to the Dallas Morning News, LGBT+ caucus chair Mary González said the group would have a “intentional and strategic agenda” to bring about progress in the state.
Noting the increased representation for LGB women in the chamber, she added: “If you would have told me that we would have five LGBTQ members in the Texas Legislature, I would have never believed you. And all women, and all in the House.
“I say this all the damn time. If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.”
The newly-elected Erin Zwiener, who is bisexual, added: “It’s important that those of us who are members of the LGBTQ community stand together to make sure that all Texans are treated fairly.
“I’m glad Mary and Celia have some more company.”
In another unlikely sign of progress, the Texas Capitol flew a flag in “solidarity” with transgender Texans, after a request from the mother of a 10-year-old trans boy.
Democratic Rep. Donna Howard honoured the request, flying the Texas state flag for the occasion.
She told the Dallas Morning News: “My policy is to assist these requests so long as they are not discriminatory.
“I was honoured to help Amber do so in recognition of the inclusion of trans Texans and the fact that our representative government truly represents all Texans.”
The Texas Republican Party continues to be dominated by anti-LGBT views.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans who advocate for LGBT rights within the GOP, were banned from having a stall at the 2018 Texas Republican convention.
The denial marked the 20th successive year in which the Log Cabin Republicans have been refused permission to attend the convention.