Villarreal files non-discrimination bill for LGBT workers




State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, has again filed a bill that would ban Texas employers from discriminating against LGBT workers.

Villarreal's HB 238, filed Monday, would keep companies from discriminating against workers because of their sexual orientation of gender identity/expression. (Read the top of Villarreal's bill if you need further explanation for “gender identity or expression.”)

An overwhelming majority of Texans believe that everyone should be judged on their capabilities and job performance,” Villarreal wrote in a press release announcing the bill. “Hardworking, high-performing employees should not be fired just because they are gay or transgender.”

The bill looks just like measures Villarreal has carried in previous sessions that never made it out of committee. While the GOP-dominated Lege tends to smack down such proposals, perhaps this year Villarreal is hoping more state GOP lawmakers follow the lead of Dallas GOP state Sen. John Carona and get with this whole equality thing. Villarreal's bill closely mirrors federal efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which also appears destined to flounder in the new Congress.

Most people incorrectly assume that it is already against the law to fire someone solely because they are gay or transgender,” said Equality Texas executive director Chuck Smith in a prepared statement. "What a lot of people don't realize is that there is no statewide law in Texas to prohibit someone from being unfairly fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance. HB 238 would help protect hardworking Texans from being unfairly fired.”

Local gay-rights groups this summer announced their plans to push San Antonio City Council members to add language specifically banning LGBT discrimination by amending sections of city code covering non-discrimination, public accomidations, fair housing, city contracts, and the appointment of board and commission members. Austin and Fort Worth city councils have already passed such measures. Local council members have yet to draft or consider such an ordinance. -- Michael Barajas