AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new campaign in Texas to fight lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) discrimination was announced Thursday by Equality Texas, the Austin Police Department, the Texas Council on Family Violence and other crime victims’ organizations.
“The vitriol, sexism, racism, anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric in Texas and in America is fueling an atmosphere of hate in Texas and across the country that is causing innocent Texans to be beaten and almost killed,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. “This rhetoric is unacceptable and has real consequences for real Texans who are victims of hate crimes.”
The campaign launched Thursday during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Working together, the agencies are bringing attention to the series of murders and hate crimes targeting LGBT Texans in Austin, Dallas, Houston and across the state, including the 20 people who have been attacked in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas this year, a statement from Equality Texas said.
The Austin Police Department says they are launching innovative new policies to better train their police officers on handling domestic violence calls involving LGBT partners and are creating a series of new policies to protect LGBT Austin citizens including new transgender search procedures and new training on domestic violence.
APD also has its first openly transgender officer on the force, Senior Officer Greg Abbink.
“We are creating new polices to educate and bring awareness to the sensitivity of how criminal cases involving the LGBT community are handled. We are extremely proud to stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters to make Austin safer for us all,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Austin native Michael Dominguez was attacked after leaving a bar in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas last October. He was beaten and stabbed and woke up following surgery in an emergency room, not knowing where he was when he regained consciousness. “Everybody has somebody and just imagine if you got a phone call saying that they’re dead. They were left to bleed out on the street,” said Dominguez.
A February report by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that the vast majority of Texans do not support discrimination of any kind against the LGBT community.
Sixty-seven percent of Texans favor a law protecting LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing. Fifty-three percent oppose letting a small business owner refuse to serve someone who is LGBT based on their personal religious beliefs. In Texas, it is completely legal to terminate an employee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
“Often, members of the LGBT community are uncomfortable reporting incidents of domestic violence to police. We want all Texans to know domestic violence services are available to all couples and we commend APD for their cutting-edge policies,” said Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence.