Lesbian Lawmaker’s Partner Left Out of Legislative Directory

State Rep. Celia Israel (right) and her partner Celinda Garza
Celia Israel
State Rep. Celia Israel (right) and her partner Celinda Garza

The name of a lesbian lawmaker’s longtime partner doesn’t appear in a Texas legislative directory, though the publisher updated the web version after the Observer inquired about the issue.

Austin Democratic Rep. Celia Israel’s partner of 20 years, Celinda Garza, isn’t listed in the 2015 edition of the Texas State Directory—a go-to source for lobbyists, reporters and others seeking information about legislators.

The Texas State Directory—an 80-year-old publication put out by a small private companyplaces the names of lawmakers’ spouses in parentheses next to their cities of residence.

Israel said her staff listed Garza as her partner on a form provided to the Texas State Directory. However, Julie Sayers, the president and publisher of the Texas State Directory, indicated that because Garza wasn’t listed as Israel’s spouse, she wasn’t included. She also said only legally married spouses are listed in the directory.

“I’ve lived with this my whole life. It’s just something you get used to,” Israel said. “It’s unfortunate that they’re not recognizing my 20-year relationship.”

Israel, elected last year, is the first out lesbian lawmaker in Texas—and the only openly LGBT state legislator in Texas history to have a longtime same-sex partner.

Despite an anti-LGBT legislative climate at the Capitol this session, Israel said she and Garza have gotten a generally positive reception. Garza wasn’t allowed to join the Legislative Ladies Club because they aren’t married. However, they were introduced as partners at a gala on the eve of the session hosted by Speaker Joe Straus and his wife.

“It’s always nice when people recognize us,” Israel said. “We’re a unit.”

Sayers initially told the Observer that Garza’s name wasn’t listed anywhere on the form provided by Israel’s office. Sayers said she had a copy of the form but declined to provide it to the Observer. A representative from Israel’s office said they didn’t retain a copy of the form.

Sayers acknowledged that only spouses can be included in the directory.

“That’s not my business to list girlfriends or boyfriends or children,” Sayers said.

Israel said she planned to write a letter to Sayers about the matter.

Sayers said it would be too late to update the print version of the directory because it has already gone to press. But as of Wednesday, the online version of Israel’s listing had been updated to read: “Spouse: Celinda Garza (Partner).”

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Published at 11:22 am CST