House bill would stop cities from passing their own non-discrimination laws

Texas Capitol Building. (CBS Austin)

Sex, age, religion, race -- are all covered by state level laws. But sexual orientation and gender identity are not, and House Bill 2899 would stop cities from passing their own.

The Texas Equal Rights Amendment of 1971 grants "equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or nation." The Texas Labor Code protects workers from discrimination on the basis of "race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age and disability." And the fair housing law bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.

None of them include the LBGT community.

Monica Roberts doesn't think that will change. "They see no interest in passing a non-discrimination law that would benefit transgender and LGBT Texans," said Roberts, an activist for transgender rights.

Roberts was one of dozens of people who waited Wednesday night to testify against HB 2899.

The bill would prevent cities from passing non-discrimination ordinances, and wipe existing ordinances, like Austin's, off the books. And in the absence of state protection, Roberts says, non-discrimination ordinances like Austin's should be left alone.

The hearing on HB 2899 is scheduled to last all night on Wednesday, but the committee is not expected to vote.