AUSTIN, Texas - Hundreds of protesters demonstrated at the Texas Capitol on Monday, demanding equality for lesbians, gays and the transgendered, including the right to marry.
Equality Texas, a civil rights group, organized people of all sexual orientations and gender identities for a day of lobbying to support civil rights bills introduced by Democratic lawmakers. Along with calling for gay marriage rights, they backed measures that would place the names of both gay parents on birth certificates and make discrimination by employers and insurance companies illegal.
The bills stand little chance in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Gov. Rick Perry adamantly opposes gay marriage and has likened homosexuality to alcoholism.
Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, told the crowd the fight for equal rights is tough but necessary. She is the only current Texas lawmaker who does not identify as heterosexual. She describes herself as pansexual, a term for people who are attracted to different gender identities, male or female.
"I didn't realize the amount of backlash it would cause, all over the state and all over the country," she told the crowd. "But it was people like you today who gave me the courage to be my authentic self and to start to change this place, because this place should no longer, not be open and not be inclusive."
Chuck Smith, the executive director of Equality Texas, praised the lawmakers who introduced the bills and said he was optimistic that the group would eventually get them passed by meeting with lawmakers in person.
"They just need to hear from enough of us to give them the strength to do the right thing for the people of Texas," he said.
Christian conservative groups hold huge sway in the Legislature, particularly among rural and suburban Republicans. These groups oppose legal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation. Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2005.
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