The original version of Senate Bill 15 would have prevented cities and counties from adopting local ordinances for employment leave and holidays as well as prohibited cities from requiring that private companies supply sick leave to employees. The bill, however, would not have affected local regulations that deal with discrimination in employment. But when Brandon Creighton, a GOP senator introduced SB 15 to the Senate State Affairs Committee the members of the Committee noticed certain change, namely that the language that stated that state wouldn’t supplant local nondiscrimination ordinances, reports the Texas Tribune.
The omission, of course, could be very bad news for LGBTQ Texans as it opens the door for legal discrimination. For example, if this new bill gets passed as it currently is, some employers can and most likely will offer benefits, such as paid sick leave to a straight person and refuse to give the same benefits to an LGBTQ person.
Since Texas doesn’t have statewide nondiscrimination laws, local ordinances are frequently the only protections for LGBTQ people in employment and now such ordinances are being threatened. Creighton commented on the concerns of the bill, saying that “Senate Bill 15 addresses local governments placing burdensome regulation on private employers and creates a patchwork across the state; therefore, it is purely a jurisdictional issue.” Local constitutional law professor Dale Carpenter also commented that the bill shouldn’t be read as a way to prevent local ordinances from forbidding discrimination.
It’s not just Creighton and Carpenter who claim that this bill isn’t about discrimination – Dallas News reports that National Federation of Independent Businesses director Spilman says that the bill is intentionally being misinterpreted by objectors, saying that opposition groups are trying to “poison the well” to kill SB 15 completely. I happen to think that the opposition is interpreting the bill just fine because if the bill wasn’t about discrimination, why did Creighton remove the clause that prevented businesses from discriminating?
In many places in the US there are no protections for LGBTQ people in employment. In fact, there are 26 states that lack any protections for LGBTQ people in terms of employment. That means that in 26 states it’s perfectly legal to deny employment to LGBTQ people based on their sexuality or fire them for being gay. If SB 15 gets passed as is, it will facilitate discrimination of LGBTQ people in a state that already has no protections for them.
If the purpose of the bill wasn’t to discriminate, I doubt that Creighton would have removed the anti-discrimination clause. The fact is, by removing said clause, the rights of LGBTQ Texans are simply being tossed in the air and ignored as business will be able to deny benefits on the basis of one’s sexuality if the bill gets passed in its current state.