The 88th Texas Legislature’s regular session — from January through May 2023 — was one of the most authoritarian displays of government overreach in state history.
We called on legislators to use our unprecedented $32.7 billion budget surplus to prepare the electric grid for extreme weather, invest in public education across all zip codes, and make our justice system work for people of every race and income level. Instead, Gov. Greg Abbott and his political allies rammed through an unconstitutional slate of hate that will make our state less safe, less free, and less fair.
While we secured some important wins, below are three ways our lives will change for the worse:
- Texans will have less control over our bodies.
- Public education will be more politicized and less inclusive.
- Voters will have less power to shape how our local communities are run.
- Trans youth and their families won’t have access to life-saving health care under S.B 14, even though these same medical treatments remain available to everyone else.
UPDATE: The ACLU of Texas and partners filed a lawsuit and won in a Texas district court, although the Texas Supreme Court decided to allow the ban to take effect September 1 while our lawsuit continues.
Texas politicians' obsession with attacking trans kids and invading their personal lives is needlessly cruel. This age-appropriate care has been shown to improve trans kids’ mental health and lower the risk of suicide.
Children deserve better than bullying masquerading as policy.
Visit txtranskids.org for resources
- We’ll have less freedom to celebrate our bodies and artistically express ourselves under the “drag ban,” S.B. 12, which is designed to push LGBTQIA+ Texans out of public life.
UPDATE: The ACLU of Texas and partners filed a lawsuit and won a termporary restraining order blocking the drag ban from taking effect September 1.
The law is extremely vague and gives officials the power to target performances they don’t like. It bans and criminalizes any performance viewable by a minor that “appeals to the prurient interest in sex” — without defining that key term, which could be used to ensnare drag performers and Pride parade participants, as well as cheerleaders, comedians, dancers, actors, and more.
No matter our race, gender, or sexuality, Texans should be able to express ourselves free from government intimidation and the looming threat of going to jail.
- We’re stuck paying the bill for so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” that promote anti-abortion propaganda and endanger public health under S.B. 24.
After Texas politicians banned our right to abortion in 2021, they’re now trying to replace the professional clinics that performed abortions with a sprawling network of unlicensed centers that use disinformation and delay tactics to force people into giving birth. These unregulated centers are not held to any medical or legal standards, so they can do and say whatever they want.
Whether you’ve been planning to have a family or didn't expect to be pregnant, all Texans deserve a government that respects our personal medical decisions and promotes accurate medical information.
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- Students will lose access under H.B. 900 to a wide range of books in public school libraries, especially those dealing with LGBTQIA+, Black, and Brown experiences.
UPDATE: A judge temporarily blocked the book ban from taking effect September 1.
Public educators were prevented from teaching important lessons about race under S.B. 3 in 2021. This session, politicians passed a bill further dictating what current and future generations of Texans can read and think. H.B. 900 is written so broadly that it gives the Texas Education Agency the authority to effectively ban any book that contains even a passing mention of sex or is deemed “educationally unsuitable,” including texts like the Bible or the works of Shakespeare. This could violate students’ First Amendment rights.
No matter their race or identity, students deserve access to stories that represent them.
Visit our Students’ Rights Hub
- Public schools can hire uncertified, unlicensed religious chaplains under S.B. 763 in an effort to force state-sponsored religion into public schools.
The Christian-based National School Chaplains Association championed this bill to fulfill its goal of putting "God and prayer in public schools.” Unlike professional chaplains in other settings, these public school chaplains would not be required to have any advanced training or state certification to ensure they’re qualified to support students of all backgrounds. Placing chaplains in this environment threatens students’ religious freedom, safety, and wellbeing.
Families and faith communities have the right to instill religious beliefs in their children, not the government.
- Students will no longer benefit from diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at public colleges and universities under S.B. 17.
Texas is now one of only two states in the country to cut these essential services that ensure campuses reflect and serve the full range of students in our state. As a result, students of all backgrounds — especially female students, students of color, and LGBTQIA+ students — will face a more hostile and less inclusive school climate. This new law is part of a broader effort by certain politicians to whitewash and erode public education.
Every young person in Texas deserves a high-quality education that prepares them to thrive in our diverse state, no exceptions.
- Collegiate athletes who are trans won’t be allowed to play sports under S.B. 15.
As part of this session’s record-breaking discrimination against LGBTQIA+ Texans, politicians banned trans students from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity at public colleges and universities. The Texas Legislature should not be in the business of regulating college sports. This unconstitutional law conflicts with NCAA rules and could put all college sports in Texas at risk for athletes, fans, and businesses.
No matter their race or gender, athletes should be able to play the sports they love.
visit txtranskids.org FOR RESOURCES
- Ineligible voters will face needlessly high criminal penalties under H.B. 1243 for casting a ballot.
It’s already harder to vote in Texas than in any other state. Despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud, politicians increased the criminal penalty for illegal voting from a Class A misdemeanor to a second degree felony, like sexual assault and violent crime. Criminal penalties for voting are disproportionately used to target voters of color. This new law is designed to deter Texans who are unfamiliar with their rights from voting, especially first-time voters, people who recently moved to Texas, people with prior convictions, and people whose first language isn’t English.
Politicians should want to earn our vote, not intimidate us from making our voices heard.
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- Our democratically elected local officials will lose the authority to best serve the needs of their communities under H.B. 2127.
UPDATE: A judge ruled this law unconstitutional, although the ruling is being appealed.
The same politicians working to suppress our vote are also trying to diminish its power. This sweeping bill gives state officials control of local decisions and allows them to ban certain basic regulations that are not yet written into state law, like those that protect workers and renters from abuse. In so doing, this law subverts the will of the people across the state. It will likely have the greatest impact on low-income Texans and those who benefit the most from these local protections.
No matter our race or politics, most Texans want a say in the decisions that shape our lives.
- Our democratically elected local prosecutors could be ousted and replaced by Gov. Abbott under H.B. 17.
In an unprecedented power grab, the governor and his legislative allies created a new way to seize control of our local government when prosecutors choose not to pursue certain criminal charges. This new law gives state officials the authority to replace district attorneys for using their independent discretion to decide who gets charged. It violates the Texas Constitution and undermines local control.
From Austin to Amarillo, Texans are worth a government that respects the results of our elections.
Texans of all backgrounds traveled from across the state to oppose these vicious attacks on our civil rights and individual liberties. In response, state officials tried to silence our voices, even resorting to intimidation and violence.
While we didn’t stop every bad bill, our advocacy was nevertheless powerful and inspiring.
Photo: Montinique Monroe
In the process, we were able to claim some hard-earned victories, including:
- We’re now one of 20 states with long-overdue protections against race-based hair discrimination under H.B. 567. Our hair will no longer be a barrier to opportunities at school or in the workplace. Whether we wear locs, braids, or shave our head, all Texans should be able to freely express our heritage and culture — and authentically be ourselves.
- We made voting more accessible to disabled Texans under S.B. 477. While this new law will provide needed accommodations for voters with mobility issues, Gov. Abbott vetoed another bill that would have given people with disabilities the option to vote by mail. Politicians should want to make our democratic process easier for eligible Texans, so that everyone has an equal say in our elections.
- We secured $2.2 million in funding for a court text reminder program under H.B. 1. Research shows that text reminders reduce failures to appear in court by more than 25 percent. This bill will decrease the number of warrants across Texas, in turn reducing unnecessary arrests and mass incarceration. No matter our race or how much money we make, the Constitution promises all of us fair and equal treatment under the law.
- We prevented politicians from passing a wide range of extremely dangerous legislation — from ‘Don’t Say LGBTQIA+’ bills to harmful bail bills to anti-immigrant bills. Gov. Abbott has already called a special session to bring back the border bills and could do so again for other legislation. It will take all of us to protect the rights of us all.
No matter how hard state leaders try, they can’t stop Texans from thriving. We know our worth. When we join together across race and place, we can demand what our families need to make a good living, pursue our dreams, and build a good life.