The bill sets up a statewide law that bans any business from discriminating against an employee identified as, or believed to be, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered, and ultimately aligns the state with the 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies, who have similar provisions in place.
"Major businesses in our state have already included this," Van DePutte told fellow lawmakers. "Our United States Department of Defense and our commanding generals have decided there should be no workplace discrimination. And so I bring this for you today to understand that we cannot keep discriminating against this group of Texans."
The bill up for debate would also allow the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division to investigate sexual discrimination claims. Equality Texas’ Chuck Smith said only a handful of Texas cities have laws protecting the LGBT community.
"The most comprehensive policies are in effect in the cities of Dallas, Ft. Worth and Austin," Smith said. "In those three jurisdictions, discrimination is prohibited in any form of citywide employment based upon sexual orientation, gender identification and expression."
Houston and San Antonio only outlaw sexual orientation discrimination for city employees.
Also testifying for the bill was United States Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the first solider to be injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom and receive a Purple Heart.
"The reality of today as I sit here is I could be fired from a job or denied from applying for employment," said Alva. "All because it doesn’t matter that I am now a decorated veteran, I am disabled, I am Latino, and I would be denied employment because I am also a gay individual. And there are no laws to protect individuals such as myself in this state."
The bill was left pending the Senate Committee on Economic Development.