BEAUMONT - Ask Payshunz Burnham about the Beaumont pride parade he helped organize this June, and he describes the day as overwhelmed with joy. Today, he's feeling something very different: disappointment.
That comes after a state senator filed a bill that Burnham says would take away rights from the LGBT community.
"This is modeled after HB-2 in North Carolina, and seeing the economic impact there, the fact that we're trying to carry this into Texas, it was definitely disappointing to see," Burnham said.
East Texas senator Bob Hall proposed Senate Bill 92.
It would end city and local ordinance protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill, also called the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, states that the purpose of this act is to improve intrastate commerce by ensuring that businesses, organizations, and employers doing business in this state are subject to uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations, irrespective of the county, municipality, or other political subdivision in which the business, organization, or employer is located or engages in business or a commercial activity.
According to Equality Texas, removing local control would restrict the ability of local elected officials to pass or enforce ordinances, rules, or regulations that are not identical to state protections.
The bill would end up restricting local governments to only protecting the attributes covered under state law: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, age or genetic information, according to Equality Texas.
Equality Texas says those laws protect more than eight million people.
Dr. J.P. Nelson, assistant professor of political science at Lamar University says the bill could have a huge impact.
"It's something that states are empowered to pass, but it will be controversial," Dr. Nelson said.
Controversial, but not unlikely.
"Republicans have close to two thirds of the state house and 20 out of 31 seats in the state senate as well, and the Republican Party is very conservative here so it stands a good chance of passing," Dr. Nelson feels.
Burnham remains optimistic his community will stay strong.
"We really thought we were moving forward but I believe we have enough people on our side now and we're accepted. We will be able to continue the progress we saw and I believe we have the support to move forward," Burnham said.
Burnham says that local and state equality groups plan to make their voices heard during the legislative session.
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