Join us on the Orange stage at 4:30pm on June 10th for this discussion moderated by Will Dupree about the current Legislative session,
how it impacts our LGBTQ+ community and where we go from here.
Will DuPree is an Emmy-winning digital anchor and reporter who joined the KXAN News team in June 2018.
He helped launch KXAN Live, which is Austin’s only anchored live-streaming operation for top stories and breaking news. It broadcasts daily on KXAN.com, the KXAN News app and the KXAN News Facebook page.
Before moving to Austin, he spent four years working as a reporter and anchor at KJRH, the NBC station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His reporting there earned him several distinctions, including a Heartland Emmy award for his storm coverage of a destructive tornado. The community voted him as Tulsa’s favorite TV reporter at the Tulsa Press Club’s Newsies Awards. He also won Best Solo Journalist from the Arkansas-Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters Association for a story about a pair of inventive teachers that he shot, wrote and edited on his own.
Senator Eckhardt has deep roots in Central Texas and deep commitment to improving opportunity for all Texans. After receiving an LBJ School Master of Public Affairs and law degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998, Eckhardt worked for eight years as an Assistant Travis County Attorney. From 2006-2013 she served as Travis County Commissioner representing 300,000 people. From 2015-2020 she served as the Travis County Judge presiding over the Commissioners Court and representing 1.3 million people.
Senator Eckhardt believes that elective office is a temporary trust bestowed by the people who elect her. She values policy above politics. And she believes that government exists to assure that opportunity is within reach of every Texan.
Ash Hall is the Policy & Advocacy Strategist on LGBTQIA+ Rights for the ACLU of Texas. Ash became involved in social justice advocacy in Texas over a decade ago, after discovering their own queer identities and finding community with others facing oppression. They have worked on numerous campaigns and nonprofits dedicated to achieving civil rights for all and equity for LGBTQIA+ people. Their professional and personal efforts have played a role in the defeat of more than 260 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills in the Texas Legislature.
Ash is committed to reaching justice for all marginalized communities and changing cultural norms in favor of compassion and equity.
Representative Sheryl Cole got her start in public life stepping up in her local PTA and organizing community support for our schools as one of the Tri-Chairs to the AISD Bond Committee in 2004. Continuing down the path of public service, she would go on to be elected to Austin City Council for three terms, ultimately serving as Austin’s first African American Mayor Pro Tempore. And now, as of 2018, Sheryl Cole represents the communities of East Austin, Manor, and Pflugerville at the Texas Legislature.
Brad Pritchett joined the staff of Equality Texas in February of 2021 as Field Director. Prior to Equality Texas, Brad was a Policy and Advocacy Strategist with the ACLU of Texas where he focused on electoral strategies and LGBTQ+ issues at the Texas Legislature.
Brad was one of many community organizers who helped lobby Houston City Council to pass nondiscrimination protections for all Houstonians in 2014. Brad served as Political Director of the Houston Unites Campaign to defend the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, where he managed coalition and political relationships for the campaign. Prior to the ACLU he served as Operations and Communications Manager at the Harris County Democratic Party for 5 years.
Brad is heavily involved in Houston’s LGBTQ+ community and lives in the Houston Heights with his husband and their 2 beagles.
Representative James Talarico is a former public school teacher first elected to serve in the Texas House of Representatives in 2018. Born in Round Rock, Rep. Talarico attended Wells Branch Elementary School, graduated from McNeil High School, and still worships at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. He earned degrees from The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University before teaching middle school on the Westside of San Antonio. He currently serves as the youngest member of the Texas Legislature, sitting on the Public Education Committee, the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee, and the Calendars Committee.
During his two terms in office, Rep. Talarico has passed historic progressive legislation including the most significant reform to the state’s school finance system in 20 years, a sweeping bill to improve early childhood education across the state, the first-ever cap on pre-K class sizes in Texas, a ban on reality TV policing, a policy to open up millions in funds for social-emotional learning programs, a cap on insulin copays, and a law requiring all incarcerated minors in Texas be given the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma. For these accomplishments, Talarico was named one of the Top 10 Best Legislators by Texas Monthly magazine.
Meaghan Bihun (they/them) has over a decade in non-profit educational directorial leadership. As an active volunteer, Meaghan has been involved with many LGBTQ organizations across Texas doing everything from sweeping floors to managing events. They began their journey to activism and advocacy as a young, queer voter seeking to understand the often opaque political process in Texas.
Meaghan believes strongly in sharing with others how to engage with and understand the legislative process in Texas to help ensure all of our voices are heard.
The son of Haitian immigrants, Rudy is of the first generation in his family to complete higher education, graduating from not only the University of Texas College of Liberal Arts with a B.A., but also a Master in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas School of Law. He has been a tireless advocate in the community speaking and working on a host of issues ranging from teaching at-risk children, co-authoring an honor code for the University of Texas, helping forge a partnership with local law enforcement and the State Bar of Texas to address the issue of community policing, and creating Pro Bono legal advice clinics for United States Military Veterans.
Rudy’s true love and passion to the City of Pflugerville has been shown in his service as Vice President of the Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 (Pflugerville Fire Department), a member of the Pflugerville Charter Review Commission, a member of the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation, Co-Chair of the Pflugerville Finance and Budget Committee, a member of the Pflugerville “1849” Park Committee, a member of the St. Elizabeth of Hungary FIESTA committee, and Vice Chair of the Boy Scouts of America Blackland Prairie. Rudy is married to his amazing wife Letisha, a longtime Pflugerville resident of almost 30 years, and the father of three, yes three, daughters.
Rudy believes that true collaboration amongst stakeholders is key to keeping Pflugerville the fiscally responsible, economically strong, inclusive, and high quality of life place it is today.
Meet Melodía Gutiérrez (she/her/ella), who serves as the Texas State Director for the Human Rights Campaign. Melodía has over a decade of experience in community outreach, electoral politics, and legislative advocacy across several states. Prior to this current role, Melodía led operations for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Action Fund in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Puerto Rico – utilizing her skills to advance, and defeat legislation, build community, and win key elections. In past roles, she has covered Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Melodía was involved in the historic 2020 electoral wins in Georgia on behalf of HRC. She also was successful in facilitating community, as well as advancing age-friendly and pay equity policies on behalf of AAUW and AARP. Melodía is grateful to return to HRC where she feels most at home and fulfilled serving LGBTQ+ Texans.
Melodía believes deeply in the strength of community, agile organizing, and empathetic partnerships.
When Melodía isn’t working hard for LGBTQ+ liberation, you can find her in her hometown of Lubbock, Texas enjoying a book, her menagerie of animals, and some good wine!