Hate crimes legislation would protect transgender Texans

Texas State Legislators heard from the public Monday on a bill that would make discrimination based on gender identity a hate crime.

House Bill 1513 was filed in the 2019 legislative session by Rep. Garnet Coleman, who represents Texas House District 147 covering southeast Houston.

Coleman is hoping to expand the Texas hate crime law in a way that would add protections for transgender people, while bringing the law in line with federal hate crime law. Coleman and co-authors of the bill held a press conference in Austin ahead of public testimony.

"I think people have a better understanding of transgender Texans than before," said Coleman,

Coleman says he’s filed the bill every session since 2007.

"Texas has had protections for most groups from hate crimes since 2001, but unfortunately, gender identity was not included in that legislation,” said Rep. Erin Zwiener from Driftwood, a co-author of the bill.

The press conference took place weeks after the assault of a transgender Dallas woman. The alleged attacker is accused of homophobic slurs, yet he is charged with aggravated assault—not with a hate crime.

"When we as a society allow hate against any one group of people, we hate us all," said Rep. Julie Johnson from Carrollton, a co-author of the bill.

"Dr. Martin Luther King said it best, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," said Rep. Ron Reynolds from Missouri City, a co-author of the bill.

"We know that the most vulnerable group of people to violent hate crimes are transgender women of color," said Zwiener.

Transgender activist Monica Roberts spoke out the press conference, highlighting the violence against transgender people in Houston in hopes that HB 1513 can change that.

"In January, we witnessed in Houston an outright attempt on a transgender woman who was shot three times at point blank range at a gas station," said Roberts of the shooting reported by Houston Police January 24 at a Chevron station on Richmond Ave.

Some of the co-authors of the bill are also members of Texas’ first ever LGBTQ Caucus.

"I hope that we can have a very positive dialogue today and actually vote a pro piece of legislation out of this committee,” said Johnson, a member of the caucus.

HB 1513 is still in its beginning stages. The full Texas House won’t consider it unless it is successfully voted out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. That vote is expected later this week, according to Coleman’s office.

You can watch Monday night’s public testimony on HB 1513 here.