Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1978 — the so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law today (Tuesday, June 11), according to an email from Equality Texas. “This comes as no surprise,” the email noted, “as he had already signaled his intent before the bill was passed in a tweet showing a Chick-fil-A meal on his desk with a pro-Chick-fil-A news article on his laptop’s screen.”

SB 1978 was one of several so-called “religious refusal” bills introduced this year in the 86th Texas Legislature, but it was the only such bill to make it to Abbott’s desk. In its original form, SB 1978 would have allowed Texans to discriminate against LGBT people and others by claiming their “sincerely-held religious beliefs” required them to do so.

The watered-down version that finally passed in the waning days of the session, said, “a governmental entity may not take any adverse action against any person based wholly or partly on a person’s belief or action in accordance with the person’s sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction, including beliefs or convictions regarding marriage.”

In other words, state and local governmental agencies cannot discriminate against person because of their religious beliefs — which was pretty much already law. SB 1978 and a House version were called the “Save Chick-fil-A bills” because Republicans in the Legislature (and State Attorney General Ken Paxton) were incensed that the city of San Antonio had refused to allow Chick-fil-A to set up shop in the airport there, ostensibly because of donations the fast-food chain’s founder made to anti-equality causes.

State Rep. Julie Johnson of Addison, one of five openly-LGBT members of the Legislature and a member of the new LGBT Caucus, used a “brilliant strategic move” to kill the House version of HB 1978, Equality Texas noted.

But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who in the 85th Legislature pushed a series of heinous “bathroom bills” but had promised this time to stay away from divisive anti-equality issues — coerced the Senate State Affairs Committee into suspending its rules to consider and approve SB 1978, and then forcing it through both the Senate and the House in just nine days.

“Equality Texas fought this bill all session,” the LGBT lobby organization’s email said. “We fought the original bill, which was one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in either the House or Senate this year. And we fought the watered-down, amended version, because it promotes discriminatory views.”

The email continues, “Here’s what you need to know about SB 1978:

“This bill does not materially change current law in Texas. It simply reaffirms First Amendment protections.

“This bill is the brainchild of anti-LGBTQ national and state-level activists. Even though it does not take away the rights of LGBTQ people, it does advance the message that anti-LGBTQ views deserve special protections.

“This bill is nothing more than an ‘anti-LGBTQ dog whistle.’

“That is why Equality Texas is here, why we have been here for the last 30 years, and why we plan to be here for at least 30 more. Standing tall for y’all and in the fight as long as it takes to achieve full equality, for every last LGBTQ Texan.”

— Tammye Nash