In the face of unprecedented attacks on our civil rights and individual liberties, Texans of all ages, races, and backgrounds showed up this year as visionary leaders — dreaming and working toward a safer and more inclusive state for all.
Here are five ways Texans courageously defended our future.
- Texans rallied for trans youth.
- Texans welcomed immigrants with dignity.
- Texans demanded abortion access.
- Texans championed public education.
- Texans defended our ability to vote.
State politicians relentlessly targeted LGBTQIA+ Texans — especially trans youth — during this year’s regular legislative session by proposing around 140 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills. In response, people from across the state contacted lawmakers, testified at hearings, and took to the streets to speak out against this unnecessary cruelty. LGBTQIA+ Texans and allies even organized one of the largest trans rights rallies in our state’s history. Thousands showed up to demonstrate support for trans youth and their families.
The ACLU of Texas helped Texans advocate for our rights at the legislature and the majority of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills failed. Despite public outcry, however, lawmakers passed S.B. 14, which bans life-saving medical care for trans youth. The ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit on behalf of Texas families and health care providers — who bravely testified in court — and initially blocked the bill. The Texas Supreme Court shamefully allowed the law to take effect Sept. 1 as the case makes its way through the courts. We’re not backing down until every young person in Texas gets the medical care they need, whether they’re transgender or not.
The way Texas politicians treat immigrants seeking safety and a better life is heartless and out of touch with who we aspire to be as Texans. Gov. Abbott and his political allies have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on extreme anti-immigrant policies that inflict violence and separate families. Yet, Texans along the border and throughout our state haven’t stopped working to ensure that immigrants are treated with dignity. Earlier this year, hundreds gathered at the State Capitol to demand an end to Operation Lone Star in protest of this inhumane program. Border residents in Eagle Pass also successfully pressured city council members to rescind an agreement that allowed state troopers to arrest migrants in a public park.
The ACLU of Texas is taking legal action to stop this cruelty and hold state officials accountable. We filed a lawsuit on behalf of four immigrants who were unlawfully detained for weeks after they should have been released. And we continue to work with local partners to push back against some of the most extreme anti-immigrant legislation in the country. For example, Texas politicians recently passed S.B. 4, which overrides federal immigrant law by empowering local law enforcement to detain people they think are undocumented and allowing certain judges to deport people without due process. We’re suing to stop Texas from enforcing this extreme anti-immigrant law.
As if banning abortion wasn’t extreme enough, Texas politicians are trying to take away even more of our freedom to make personal decisions about our bodies. They’re spending millions of taxpayer dollars on propaganda campaigns and fake clinics that spread medical disinformation in an effort to shame people out of seeking abortion care. And now, they want to ban people from helping pregnant Texans travel to seek abortion care in states where it’s legal. But that hasn’t discouraged Texans, the majority of whom support abortion rights, from demanding a better future. Communities at the center of these attacks are mobilizing in large numbers, packing city council hearings and blocking some of these ordinances.
Local advocates across the state are coming together through the ACLU of Texas’ new Texas Abortion Advocacy Network to get trained on how to advance abortion access and reproductive rights at every level of government. We’re in this for the long haul and we won’t stop until every Texan — from Arlington to Laredo — can decide if, when, and how to raise a family in a safe and healthy environment.
State politicians and local officials have ramped up their coordinated campaign to erode public education in Texas by banning books, ousting democratically elected leaders, and trying to force state-sponsored religion into the classroom. These sinister attempts to control students’ minds and futures are being met with widespread opposition. In Houston, for example, students are protesting through walkouts and Houstonians of all ages are speaking out at school board meetings. The ACLU of Texas is following their lead by calling on the federal government to intervene.
While educators continue to defend students’ right to read, religious leaders are working to protect students’ religious freedom at school. The ACLU of Texas has warned school boards about the danger of allowing unlicensed religious chaplains to counsel students. School districts like Dallas, Plano, and Waco have already voted against government-imposed religion. No matter our race or politics, most Texans want students to get a high quality education in an environment where they feel included and respected for who they are.
Texans want to have an equal say in the decisions that impact our lives. Yet state politicians are threatening the core principles of our democracy in order to maintain power by suppressing our vote, undermining the power of our vote, and overriding our elections if they don’t like the outcome. Still, Texans aren’t backing down. Ahead of this year’s local elections, volunteers served as poll monitors and helped staff the Election Protection Hotline to ensure that eligible voters had the information they needed to make their voices heard.
The ACLU of Texas partnered with community organizations to provide multilingual Know Your Rights trainings and even organized a voting rights celebration in one of Texas’ most diverse neighborhoods where more than 50 languages are spoken. We continue to challenge Texas’ anti-voter laws in court and are winning.
In 2023, Texans worked together to build a stronger and safer state. No matter the threat, we continuously showed up for each other in critical and courageous ways.
We the people believe in a state that works for all of us, where Texans of every race and background can build a good life. And we’re ready to make that vision a reality through our advocacy — and elections — in 2024.