DIANNE HARDY-GARCIA is so earnest in conversation that you might mistake her for a political novice. Don’t. As the executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of Texas for the past five years, the 33-year-old San Antonio native has had one of the most challenging jobs in a famously conservative state, and judging by the press she’s received, she has done it quite well. In 1994, after eight gay men were murdered in Texas in the space of sixteen months, she was featured in the New York Times, in Vanity Fair, and on Prime Time Live. That national exposure has helped her push for health benefits for domestic partners and more money for HIV medication, services, and prevention across the state. In light of last year’s murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, which again brought hate crimes into the national consciousness, her focus this legislative session is the passage of a series of hate-crime bills with increased civil penalties. Despite strong opposition, she remains optimistic. “People from different walks of life come to the Texas Capitol to compromise and try to make it so that all of us can live together,” Hardy-Garcia says. “Being part of that is a beautiful thing.”