Houston Proud, LGBTQ+ Proud

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Preserving and advancing equality for LGBTQ+ Houstonians

"It's not just about standing for your friends, it's about standing for anyone who has been told or made to feel like they are different, unwelcome, or undeserving. Love is love is love is love. We have to continue to build bridges and tear down the silos in our communities that keep people from seeing the beauty and love in all of us." - Abbie Kamin

Houston is a city known for our LGBTQ+ Pride. We elected the first openly gay or lesbian mayor of a major American city, we are home to the country’s fourth largest Pride Parade, and the first city in Texas to paint a rainbow crosswalk – but we lag behind other major Texas cities like Dallas and Austin when it comes to substantive policy and protections. Houston’s diversity is what makes our city strong and we must continue working to make sure Houston is welcoming to everyone, and allows everyone to thrive.

Yet, we are under attack.

Any discussion of local issues important to LGBTQ+ people must be placed in the context of our nation’s number one threat to equality: President Donald Trump and his administration. Since taking office, the President has engaged in a massive attack on LGBTQ+ families, rights, opportunities and institutions. GLAAD’s Trump Accountability projects now lists 113 attacks by the President on LGBTQ+ people (as of June 5, 2019) and the pace is accelerating.

Our leaders must be fully engaged in the fight for equality.

In her daily job as the Associate Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southwest Regional Office, Abbie fights against hate crimes, including hate crimes targeting LGBTQ+ individuals, and has actively worked to build coalitions beyond traditional partnerships.

As the Committee Director for the State House Human Services Committee during the 85th Legislative Session, Abbie combatted one of the first, if not the first, iteration of a “sincerely held religious beliefs” exemption to anti-discrimination laws at the state legislature, that a committee member attempted to attach to an omnibus bill as a direct attack on the rights of the community to become foster parents – and Abbie has continued this fight at the state legislature through her work at the Anti-Defamation League.

Abbie fought for the rights of trans people who are at risk of being denied the right to vote because the gender on their voter IDs do not match their gender identification. Outraged by the lies underpinning the campaign against HERO, Abbie is committed to passing a new nondiscrimination law and actively supports the work of TransformHouston to lay the groundwork for a successful amendment to the Houston City Charter.

Abbie’s campaign is out front on LGBTQ+ issues in specific ways. As your next representative on City Council for District C, Abbie will work to ensure our city is a place every person feels safe and is proud to call home:

  • Increased police patrols and security for places where LGBTQ+ people gather that are under a heightened risk of right-wing domestic terrorism

  • The passage of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance

  • Banning conversion therapy for minors

  • Implementing LGBTQ+ Business Enterprise Certification

  • Combating the HIV crisis and the HIV-related stigma

Increasing Protection from Domestic Right-Wing Terrorism

At a time when far-right extremism is on the rise, we must ensure that residents in every synagogue, mosque, historically black church, and other sensitive locations such as LGBTQ+ community centers are safe to gather, pray, and express themselves freely. That’s why Abbie has called for increased patrols and security for religious institutions and other sensitive locations like LGBTQ+ community centers at heightened risk of being targeted by extremists.

“Some gathering places that are potential targets by domestic terrorists cannot afford their own security,” says Abbie. “We have to do more to help them, connecting them with existing resources and increasing law enforcement presence where it is needed.”

Understanding that our police force is already stretched thin, Abbie has also proposed increasing the city’s revenue cap for the limited purpose of funding an increase in law enforcement, as Mayor Bill White did in 2006.

Passing Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance

While Houston is the most diverse city in the country, it is also the only city of its size lacking an equal rights ordinance. No person should be discriminated against because of who they are. Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance would prohibit discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy.

Abbie will partner with organizations already fighting for equal rights like Transform Houston, ACLU, Equality Texas, Freedom For All Americans, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP, Texas Freedom Network, and others to amend Houston’s City Charter to make sure every person is protected from discrimination and feels safe in Houston.

Banning Conversion Therapy for Minors

Conversion therapy (sometimes called “reparative therapy”) is a dangerous and abusive practice, especially when it is forced on minors. The practice has been discredited and major health professional organizations--including the American Academy of Physician Assistants, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Counseling Association-- signed a letter calling for the end of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts while the American Psychiatric Association strongly stated it “does not believe that same-sex orientation should or needs to be changed, and efforts to do so represent a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals”

Conversion therapy is especially harmful to LGBTQ+ youth, who are already at increased risk of suicide. LGBTQ+ youth who experience high levels of family rejection are more likely to use illegal drugs, report high levels of depression, and are eight times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers who experience no family rejection.

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Texas debated a ban this session on forced conversion therapy for minors but took no action.  

That’s why Abbie will ask the city attorney to draft local legislation banning forced conversion therapy for minors within the city limits of Houston as a matter of health and safety. Should a state law change be required, Abbie will advocate to make this one of the city’s lobbying priorities for the next legislative session.

Implementing LGBTQ+ Business Enterprise Certification

Houston’s economy is thriving and our small businesses are more optimistic about the future than any other city in the country. We have already empowered minority, women, and persons with disabilities-owned businesses through certification and have seen  businesses thrive. Houston should follow the lead of cities across the country and the private sector in recognizing the value of LGBTQ+ dollars and the economic imperative of inclusivity and LGBTQ+ visibility in their supply chains and marketplaces.

Companies ranging from IBM and Intel to Microsoft and Mastercard are looking to diversify their supply chains and contractors with certified LGBTQ+-owned businesses. Certifying LGBTQ+-owned businesses headquartered in Houston will provide them with expanded opportunities and chances to growth, something that will benefit all Houstonians.

That’s why Abbie is proposing that the city undertake the first step – a disparity study – with the aim of including certified LGBTQ+ businesses in the city’s MWDBE program.

Combatting the HIV Crisis

The South now has the highest rates of HIV diagnoses in the United States. While other parts of the country have seen decreases, the rates of HIV diagnoses in the South have remained steady. Houston leads the State of Texas in the number of HIV infections. We need to devote more attention and resources towards combating HIV and the stigma around it.

The first step is recognizing that HIV impacts some groups of people more than others. Long gone are the days when HIV diagnoses were largely limited to gay and bisexual men. In Houston, nearly 50% of the people living with HIV are African American and 29% are Hispanic. Economically disadvantaged individuals are at a higher risk. Traditional education campaigns have not been effective in these communities. Earlier this year, the Houston Health Department launched the I Am Life campaign to focus outreach efforts and remove the stigma of HIV in these communities. Abbie will work to make sure that we continue to make data-driven investments in efforts that are reaching the communities most at risk and that no community is left behind.

It is no surprise that the South is struggling to address HIV while the rest of the country is making progress. Many Southern states, including Texas, have not expanded Medicaid. The HIV crisis has a disproportionate impact on economically disadvantaged communities and without insurance, individuals in these communities are less likely to have access to testing and medicine. Abbie will push the state to expand Medicaid and increase access to life-saving health care and push the city to include Medicaid expansion in it’s lobbying priorities.

While fighting for increased access to health care, the city must move forward now, working with the federal government, health providers, and local organizations to increase access to HIV testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and antiretroviral therapy (ART). One of the best ways to stop the spread of HIV is to prevent it. PrEP taken daily reduces the risk of getting HIV  from sex by more than 90% and if it is injected, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Ensuring that at risk populations have access to PrEP is an important step. Frequent and quality testing is important for both the health of individuals and the population as a whole. Once infected, the earlier individuals are diagnosed and receive treatment, the more they benefit from treatment and the less likely they are to transmit HIV to others. Individuals diagnosed with HIV need reliable access to ART. Individuals with HIV who are consistent in their treatment can live a long, healthy life.

Abbie will work to make sure the city is using potentially newly available federal funds and partnering with local health providers and organizations to ensure HIV testing, PrEP, and ART are accessible to those most at risk of being exposed to HIV, regardless of whether they can pay.