Texas House Passes Bill Aimed at San Antonio City Council’s Chick-fil-A Ouster

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State Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton) speaks against Senate Bill 1978 on the House floor on Monday.

Over the tearful opposition of the Legislature’s first-ever LGBTQ Caucus and several failed attempts at a procedural block, the Texas House passed a religious liberty bill Monday that LGBTQ advocates fear would license discrimination against their communities.

When the lower chamber first considered the bill just over a week ago, the LGBTQ Caucus torpedoed it with a procedural move. This time, an attempt to do the same failed, as did emotional exhortations from the five women who make up the caucus.

After two hours of debate, Senate Bill 1978 – which prohibits government entities from punishing individuals or organizations for their “membership in, affiliation with, or contribution … to a religious organization” – passed on a nearly party-line preliminary vote, 79-62. If the House grants formal approval and the Senate agrees to a change made on the lower chamber’s floor Monday, the bill will head to the governor.

“This bill is going to pass; let’s face it,” State Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) said from the front of the chamber minutes before her colleagues cast their votes. “It’s been cloaked in religious freedom, but the genesis, the nexus of this bill, is in hatred.”

When the bill was first filed, it contained sweeping religious refusals language that had the potential to gut the few existing protections for gay communities, hailing from a national sweep of anti-LGBTQ model legislation. As it’s made its way through the Legislature, the bill has been progressively stripped of its most controversial provisions, leaving a version that largely codifies existing legal protections: freedom of religion and freedom of association.

On Monday, House sponsor Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) weakened the measure further, removing a provision that would have empowered the Texas attorney general to bring lawsuits against governmental entities accused of religious discrimination.

Krause said removing the provision was a show of “good faith,” as it had proved a “big sticking point” with opponents of the bill. Given the changes he described as efforts to compromise, Krause said he was surprised at the level of opposition to the measure.

“Look at the language in this bill,” Krause said. “There is nothing discriminatory in the language. … There is nothing discriminatory in the intent.”

But despite the revisions, the bill “perpetuates the rhetoric that leads to discrimination, to hate and ultimately bullying that leads to the consequence of people dying,” said State Rep. Mary González (D-Clint), who chairs the LGBTQ Caucus.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), who lobbed an unsuccessful point of order aimed at killing the bill, questioned Krause for some 30 minutes about how the bill might spark discrimination. And each member of the newly formed LGBTQ Caucus spoke against the bill, several of them emotionally, just before the House voted.

One member of the caucus, State Rep. Jessica González (D-Dallas), tried and failed to amend the bill with language that would have protected LGBTQ communities against discrimination from employers and the government. Currently, there is no state law that explicitly prohibits employers from firing workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but some cities have codified those protections at the local level.

Her amendment failed 65-76.

With emotional appeals looking unlikely to change minds, several LGBTQ Caucus members tried to persuade their colleagues to oppose the bill out of practicality – telling them, sometimes subtly and at times directly, that a vote for this bill could hurt their reelection chances in 2020.

“Members, this bill is here, being debated on the floor today, to make LGBTQ Texans feel less than, to make us feel attacked by our government,” said State Rep. Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat and freshman member of the LGBTQ Caucus. “We are living in history, members. Attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have changed rapidly over the past few decades. Young Texans in particular are overwhelmingly accepting of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Then she put a finer point on it. “You don’t need this vote,” Zwiener said.

Minutes later, the bill passed, with just one Republican, State Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston, voting against it. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who has said he supports the bill, did not cast a vote, as is customary.

The bill was revived in the Texas Senate last week after the LGBTQ Caucus effectively kept it from passing earlier this month.

Proponents have said it is necessary to reaffirm protections based on religion, citing incidents like the San Antonio City Council’s decision earlier this year to prohibit Chick-fil-A from opening in the city’s airport, with one council member citing the franchise’s “anti-LGBTQ behavior.” Some supporters of the bill labeled it the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill.” Krause said no business should be discriminated against based on its donations to religious organizations. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has long cast himself as a crusader for religious liberty, launched an investigation into the city’s actions.

Proponents and detractors acknowledged that the bill is likely to spark activity in the courts. Krause said that even without a provision empowering the attorney general to sue, individuals and organizations have a private cause of action under the bill – and can always look to groups like the First Liberty Institute, a law firm that crusades for religious liberty.

Opponents, meanwhile, emphasized that challenges to the law would mean major costs to the state.

“I have no doubt that if passed, SB 1978 will be fought in the courts at every level and at great expense to the taxpayers. To vote yes today is to put your signature on that invoice,” said State Rep. Julie Johnson, the Dallas Democrat who successfully sank the bill in its first appearance on the House floor earlier this month. “The underlying message remains the same – and that message poisons this state. It sends the message that Texas is not open and welcoming to all.”

16 thoughts on “Texas House Passes Bill Aimed at San Antonio City Council’s Chick-fil-A Ouster

  1. Texas legislators are utterly brilliant at legislating for things that have already been legislated for. Anyone care to read them the First Amendment?

  2. I don’t know if this bill would have prevented the Chick-fil-A incident since the SA city council voted against them for their affiliation with anti-LGBTQ organizations and not their religious affiliation. If SA’s municipal government were put on trial they’d easily win if they had even 1 contract with a religiously affiliated organization that isn’t anti-LGBTQ.

    • Nice try.

      The entire argument that the left uses to justify castigating those who hold values that are contrary to theirs is one that is riddled with hypocrisy.

      The organizations Chik-fil-A donate to are all Christian organizations that oppose the LGBTQ lifestyle, but that does not filter down into their hiring practices. Chik-fil-A hires people from the LGBTQ community as a matter of course, and there is no discrimination in their employment practices.

      They are Christian organizations FIRST and FOREMOST.

      Conservative Christians, in general, also oppose a lifestyle which involves sex between a cis-male and cis-female outside of marriage.

      We believe sex and marriage to be sacred and should be between a cis-male and cis-female. We have a right to think and believe that way, just as much as you have your right to think and believe that sex and love can be between any human beings without regard to gender as defined by the xy sex determination system.

      As Christians, we do not seek to deny you your right to enter into sexual or loving relationships with whomever you wish. You are free to choose any partner you desire.

      There are, undoubtably, “Christians” who really do hate and detest persons who are in the LGBTQ community. In this regard, the left has taken the exception and made it normative. But, alas, such manipulation is a standard tactic of the left.

      There are haters of one sort or another in all categories of humans.

      There are people in the LGBTQ community that disdain Christian values and, furthermore, truly DO detest and hate Christians. They are free to outright hate us.

      And that is truly their right.

      We, as Christians, cannot even have values that run contrary to the LGBTQ lifestyle without being branded “haters”, or “anti-LGBTQ”, whilst those in the LGBTQ community are free (as they should be), to hate away on Christians.

      And thus, the argument that is used to justify actions such as those taken by the city of San Antonio falls apart.

      But that doesn’t matter.

      Fairness, truth, and real equity do not matter to the left.

      Only lock-step agreement with the agenda and conformity to the doctrine is accepted.

      Everything short of that is “hate.”

      • “Conservative Christians, in general, also oppose a lifestyle which involves sex between a cis-male and cis-female outside of marriage.” Wonderful! Divine! Good for you! But yours is not the ONLY voice in Texas anymore. You cherry-pick the Bible like a finicky decorator at an Estate Sale. Yours is apparently the only viewpoint that matters. I know it’s hard to grasp but those days are, at long last, over. Your church is now your safest place for the hating and division you cherish. Have at it. The government “of the people, for the people” is for EVERYONE.

        • “After two hours of debate, Senate Bill 1978 – which prohibits government entities from punishing individuals or organizations for their “membership in, affiliation with, or contribution … to a religious organization”

          At first, I was opposed to this until I read the quote from the article above again. However, I don’t think San Antonio did not give the contract to Chic-fil-A because of their religious affiliation but for their business model which does not serve customers at the airport on Sunday.

  3. All this over 1 Councilman’s opinion on how he voted. Our mayor has clearly said it was a business decision to go with a brand that was open for business 7 days a week. Including Sunday, the highest airport traffic day of the year. Being closed during 15% of our customer traffic is just not a good business decision. Our Mayor’s decision has been twisted by evangelicals and candidate Brockhouse for their benefit. Shameful to twist the truth like this. Plus Mr. Brockhouse had two different wives call the police on his violence and anger management issues. Character counts.

    • Agree. Somehow the Texas legal system will twist the city’s opinion into one in which the city discriminated against Chic-fil-A because they are religious.

      Texas Republicans not far behind Alabama Republicans in their thinking. Believe the way we do or we will legislate against you.

  4. I am soooo tired of the left pushing their agendas on christians. They bully and whine when they don’t get their way.

    • Luz, I am soooooo tired of Christians pushing their agendas on everyone else. Uh, ever notice how all major Christian holidays (Christmas, Good Friday, Easter) are state and national holidays? I haven’t noticed any of my religious holidays observed by the state or nation. How about all the “God Bless Such and Such” on government property? If a cop put “May the Devil be with you” on his cruiser, I think you’d make quite a squawk about that. I saw a sheriff’s car last week with “God Bless Something or Other” on his car. That ain’t supposed to be there. He can tattoo it on his forehead if he wants, but keep it off government property.
      If the Christian agenda includes depriving certain groups of Americas of certain rights, then you bet the left is gonna push against that.

      • I saw an Alabama license plate and it says, “God” something. I think it was “God Bless America.” Scary.

  5. “Look at the language in this bill,” Krause said. “There is nothing discriminatory in the language. … There is nothing discriminatory in the intent.” — then why even bother?? It’s nothing more than a slap to the GLBTQ community. Bathroom Bill redux. (As per usual – when right wing “Christians” can’t get anything else accomplished in the Legislature they can always feel better about themselves by sticking it to the gays on their way out the door.)

  6. Suppose a business was known to make contributions to the KKK or to anti-Semitic organizations? Suppose a business contributed to an organization promoting satanism? How would that fly? Would Ken Paxton protect those businesses and sue a city that did not grant them a contract?
    Other laws involved with “religion” have been judicially interpreted to apply to an entity with precepts equivalent to traditionally held religious values. Do we want such businesses making money in our city?

  7. Let’s get real here, people! If you don’t like who a corporation contributes to, then you may CHOOSE to simply not buy their products. We don’t need government, or anyone else for that matter, deciding which businesses we may or may not CHOOSE to do business with. Take some personal responsibility for your own lives and your own choices! I applaud the State Government for putting protections in place to allow ALL businesses to exist so that We the People can CHOOSE whether or not to give them our business.

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