The legislation, authored and sponsored by GOP state Rep. Matt Krause, would have banned cities and other governmental entities from taking “adverse action” against anyone for their “membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation or other support” to a religious organization.
It became known as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill as supporters felt it would have helped avoid the recent boycott and eventual elimination of the fast-food chain from San Antonio’s airport. The fast-food restaurant has years of history of making donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations that advocate against LGBTQ rights.
The Dallas Voice had labeled the legislation one of the “most extreme anti-LGBT bills this session.”
Well, now the bill is back thanks to some last minute maneuvers in the state Senate, according to The Dallas News.
Senate Bill 1978, the companion bill to HB 3172, was filed by state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola).
Addressing the Senate Affairs Committee, Hughes told a practically empty room on Monday that, “The bill as filed ensures religious beliefs are protected from discrimination.”
Hughes emphasized that the bill was about “those uniquely American rights,” freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
The room was nearly empty because the GOP-led Senate waived rules just minutes before so that the bill could be heard in committee without giving public notice.
Last week, when HB 3172 came up for debate, dozens showed up to denounce the legislation.
But with no one to debate the bill, the committee advanced the legislation to the full Senate. SB 1978 is on today’s intent calendar.
The Dallas News says Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, issued a statement via a spokesperson defending the last minute waiving of the Senate rules.
Sherry Sylvester, Patrick’s spokesperson, said it’s not uncommon to suspend the rules to speed up bills this late in the session.
Sylvester also went to lengths to say the language in SB 1978 is the same as matches the HB 3172, and that bill received “several hours” of debate last week.
“This is not a new bill,” she said, adding, “It’s passage will strengthen our protections for religious liberty — a priority for the Lt. Governor.”
Kathy Miller, the president of Texas Freedom Network, issued a statement calling the tactic a ‘ghost hearing.’
“It’s appalling to hold a ghost hearing and then take a snap vote that leaves virtually no chance for anyone to tell senators how such a sweeping discrimination bill would affect individuals and families across the state,” said Miller.
“The lieutenant governor is so desperate to pass a bill that shields discrimination against LGBT Texans that he no longer even pretends to care what anybody else thinks about it,” she added. “But ramming this bill through doesn’t change the fact that the majority of Texans oppose laws that allow the use of religion to hurt people simply because of who they are or whom they love.”
A poll by Public Religion Research Institute in March 2019 found that 54% of Texas oppose allowing businesses to refuse products or services to LGBTQ people due to religious beliefs. Thirty-nine percent say they favor the idea.