AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The city of San Antonio blocking a Chick-fil-A airport location has Republicans pressing to quickly get what they call new religious liberty protections on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
The Texas Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would ban government entities from taking “adverse action” over an individual or organization’s affiliation to a religious organization.
Republicans have pushed the measure in wake of the San Antonio City Council voting in March to exclude Chick-fil-A from opening airport concessions due to the fast-food chain owners’ record on LGBT issues – specifically over donations to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Salvation Army, and a George youth home; whose leaders advocate for marriage to be between one-man and one-woman.
“When we saw that a company was being punished for giving to religious organizations, that’s not acceptable,” said Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, the bill’s author.
It’s the latest flashpoint in a long struggle over the lines between religious liberty and anti-LGBT discrimination. Sen. Bryan Hughes’ bill would ban governments from taking “adverse action” against organizations or their members because of their faith-based views on marriage. The Texas Attorney General would enforce it.
“The bill defines what a religious organization is. In fact, this definition has been in the law for twenty years and it’s in the section of the law that deals with civil rights. There’s been a concern about people doing bad things and saying Oh, that’s my religion. Texas law addresses that,” said Sen. Hughes.
LGBT advocates and their supporters say since there is no Federal protection against discrimination for LGBT people – this would encourage it.
“This bill is not about Chik Fil A. This bill is a platform for anti-LGBTQ messages and organizations, the same folks that were behind the bathroom bill,” said Samantha Smoot from Equality Texas.
Samantha Smoot from Equality Texas says this is a page from a national playbook and this bill would prioritize Christian beliefs over others.
“Religious freedom in this country, in this state, is a fundamental value and it’s protected in the constitution. But it doesn’t mean you can discriminate against someone in a public space,” said Smoot.
This bill is being put on the fast track because there are less than two weeks before lawmakers leave town.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the hoops it has to jump through in short order to become law. It just passed the Senate, but it must pass out of the House Committee by Saturday, be placed on the House calendar by Sunday, and have a vote on the House floor by Tuesday.
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation into whether or not the city of San Antonio broke the law by banning Chick-fil-a.
In a letter to city leaders after the ban, Paxton wrote “the constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-a’s chicken” He went on to say that he was concerned that both were under assault at San Antonio’s airport.
Democrats say the bill invites discrimination. A coalition of LGBT lawmakers sank a similar measure last week in the Texas House on a procedural move.