by Sean Moothart
The 87th Legislative Session and its three special sessions could have been a time to address the serious issues facing the state – power grid updates, COVID-19, or climate change. Instead, many state representatives and our Governor decided it would be better to invent new threats to distract us from their failures to address the real ones. Unsurprisingly, targeting LGBTQIA+ rights became the easiest way for lawmakers to rile up the public and distract from their failure to act on these real issues.
Ever since I can remember, I have aspired to play a role in policy making. I have always seen this role taking on various forms, like being an employee of a nongovernmental organization or even an elected official. However, my internship with the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus provided vital insight into another political role I could play in policy making: LGBTQIA+ advocacy.
Formed in 2019 to address the lack of influence LGBTQIA+ advocates have historically had in Texas, the Caucus is focused on fostering dialogue between Texas legislators regarding championing and preserving LGBTQIA+ rights in the state. Based in the Texas House, the Caucus is led by five openly queer women. LGBTQIA+ leadership in the Caucus allows it to be more responsive to the needs of the community.
Over this past semester, my internship with the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus has changed quite significantly the way I view the political process. Working closely alongside the office of the Chair of the Caucus, Representative Mary González, I learned that while LGBTQIA+ political representation is not as prevalent as I would like, there are more LGBTQIA+ people in power in the state of Texas than I could have ever imagined. González herself is the first openly pansexual elected official in the United States and has championed LGBTQIA+ rights during her entire time in the House. However, González is far from the only source of LGBTQIA+ representation in the Capitol. My initial (and uninformed) viewpoint of politics completely erased the people like openly LGBTQIA+ lobbyists and advocates whose work ensures that LGBTQIA+ rights are always brought to the table.
Much of my work focused on responding to the constant barrage of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislative attacks and their resulting fallout. Particularly, the attacks against trans kids became my primary focus. From attending strategic meetings to address attacks to helping draft social media responses for the Caucus, my internship allowed me to become an active participant in our government.
The most notable aspect of my internship came from the passing of HB 25, which as a law now effectively bans trans kids from participating in UIL sports. I was in the office as hours of deliberation and debate surrounding the language and content eventually culminated in the passing of HB 25. I felt such anger towards the legislators across the aisle for pushing forward legislation that they knew would bring real harm to children. This anger that many other Texans share has proven important, though, in galvanizing public opposition against bills such as HB 25. Spending time at the Capitol during the days leading up to HB 25’s signing into law was not only infuriating, but also surprisingly encouraging due to the outpouring of support from the public and Democratic lawmakers. All the good, hardworking people I interacted with fighting tirelessly for human rights gives me hope that we can eventually undo the damage that we have done. Ultimately, that is what leads me to keep fighting.
I am proud to say I worked with the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus this past semester. While we were unsuccessful in stopping HB 25, I now believe more than ever just how vital it is to have an organization that is tasked with preserving LGBTQIA+ rights. That is why I am so glad to be able to stay on for an additional semester.
If you are interested in continuing the mission of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, below are some resources you may find useful in standing up for LGBTQIA+ rights in the state of Texas.
- Visit https://texaslgbtqcaucus.com to learn more about the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus. If you’re interested in having more regular updates, follow them on Instagram and Twitter and like them on Facebook.
- Visit https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home to find out who represents you in Texas. This way you can find out more about their stance on LGBTQIA+ rights. As a constituent, you can shape future policy by making your voice heard.
- Visit https://equalitytexas.org to find ways to get involved in LGBTQIA+ advocacy in the state of Texas. Equality Texas is the state’s leading LGBTQIA+ rights advocacy organization and has been a vital partner in addressing the attacks on LGBTQIA+ rights during the past special sessions.
Sean Moothart is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a Government major and Sociology minor. He currently serves as the Senior Intern for the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus. In his spare time, Sean enjoys gardening and trying coffee shops around Austin. After graduation, Sean is hoping to continue his education with a Master’s in Public Affairs. He wants to bring his passions regarding LGBTQIA+ rights and sustainability into the Master’s program. He hopes this will allow him to follow his dreams of becoming an advocate for progressive policy that will ensure a more equitable society.