The first of the two LGBT bills, HB 188, relates to the “prohibition of housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression and to the enforcement of that prohibition.” Bernal filed a similar bill last session (HB 192) that made it out of committee but never came to a floor vote.
In an July 2017 article in the Texas Tribune, Bernal said that such protections are vital. He noted that a family friend, who is a real estate agent, has seen instances of housing discrimination against LGBT Texans.
“So many people in that community were having a hard time finding places to live,” Bernal said. “There are real people in our community being denied access to housing.”
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee did a satiric segment featuring Bernal describing how one Republican vote from state Rep. Jason Villalba helped move the housing bill out of committee.
Bernal’s second pro-LGBT bill (HB 254) prohibits “certain discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression” in housing, public accommodations and employment, “providing an administrative penalty” and “creating a criminal offense.”
Similar bills were submitted during the last legislative session but none were passed. Some of Texas’ largest cities have passed nondiscrimination ordinances which offer some, or all of the same protections. A state-wide law would make those equal rights available to all LGBT Texans.
“Those protections are necessary because the discrimination is real,” Bernal told the Texas Tribune last year. “The discrimination doesn’t just exist in the minds of people that we may disagree with. It has consistently made its way into legislation and proposed legislation of the highest order at the highest levels of the state.”
Bernal has a record of supporting LGBT equality. As a San Antonio city councilman, he spearheaded the efforts to pass the city’s 2013 nondiscrimination ordinance. His support of the measure led several right wing groups to initiate what ended up being a failed attempt to remove him from office.
“The idea that you want to recall somebody because they want to extend protections to gays and lesbians makes our city looks ridiculous,” Bernal told Texas Public Radio at the time. “This is not that controversial. Other cities have done it without the sky falling. If the fact that I want to extend protections to gays and lesbians is why they want me out of office, it says a lot more about them than it ever would about me.”
State Rep. Diego Bernal is hosting a Holiday Legislative Update on December 15 at 10 a.m. at San Antonio College in the Valor Room of the Victory Learning Center, 1819 N. Main Ave. Attendees are asked to bring an unwrapped toy for a child aged 0-18, or gift cards to Target or Walmart. For more information, call (210) 308-9700.