Last week on Thursday night, May 9, state Rep. Julie Johnson — a Democrat from Addison who is also one of the five openly-LGBT members of the Texas Legislature and a member of the Legislature’s newly-minted LGBT Caucus — through strategic use of a parliamentary tactic managed to stop HB 3172, Tarrant County Republican state Rep. Matt Krause’s anti-LGBT “religious refusal” bill. HB 3172 would have allowed anyone claiming a “sincerely-held” religious belief to freely discriminate against LGBT people — and anyone else they didn’t like — and get away with it.
But Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is so desperate to hate on the LGBT Texans that yesterday afternoon (Monday, May 13) made a Senate committee suspend its rules so that he could force through SB 1978, the Senate’s companion bill to HB 3172, the measure also known as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill.
Equality Texas issued a statement noting that the Senate State Affairs Committee had “suspended their own rules and passed SB 1978 with no testimony taken. SB 1978 is a broad sweeping discriminatory bill.”
Samantha Smoot, Equality Texas’ interim executive director, said, “[Texas Values President] Jonathon Saenz and Dan Patrick still don’t understand that a majority of Texans want equal rights for LGBTQ people, not discrimination. In the final days of the session, we hope state leaders will return to the position they held on Jan. 8, that this session would not focus attacks on the LGBTQ community. We urge a continued focus on the bread and butter issues facing Texans.”
Resource Center also sent out an email urging LGBT Texans and their allies to contact their representatives in the Legislature and tell them to vote no on SB 1978.
“The language in this bill has not been whittled down and would legislate discrimination based on ‘sincerely-held religious belief’ and moral convictions about marriage,” Resource Center’s Advocacy team said. “The Texas Senate just couldn’t resist taking another swipe at LGBTQ Texans.”
The email continued, “Time in the legislative session is running out, and these next few days are critical. Help stop this sneaky effort now!”
And Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller issued a statement declaring, “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. 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.
“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,” Miller said.
The TFN email statement noted that the Senate State Affairs Committee considered SB1978 “just minutes after the Senate waived posting rules to allow the committee to bring up the bill. With virtually no notice, no one testified” and the committee passed the bill to the full Senate.
The TFN email also pointed out that SB 1978 “is even more sweeping” than SB17, already passed by the Senate, which would shield state-licensed professionals and their businesses when they discriminate for religious reasons.
According to TFN, polling from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that Texans, oppose allowing businesses to refuse for religious reasons to provide products or services to gay or lesbian Texans by a margin of 54-39 percent.
To find the name of your state senator and state representative and how to contact them to tell them to oppose SB 1978, go here.
To contact the House Calendars Committee and tell them to kill SB 1978, go here.
Cornyn’s fundraising letter
In addition to the Senate’s machinations, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has sent out a fundraising letter playing on the fears of the religious right-wing to try and put dollars in his own campaign coffers. Here is the letter in its entirety (the name of the recipient has been deliberately deleted):
The war on Chick-fil-A continues.
Around the country — even right here in San Antonio, Texas — liberal local governments are targeting the popular restaurant for their Christian values.
They are taking votes to shutter its doors.
They’re issuing outright BANS, preventing Chick-fil-A from opening its doors in popular locations like the San Antonio airport.
XXX, the liberals aren’t talking about zoning issues, they’re not worried about economics… their issue with Chick-fil-A is about one thing and one thing and one thing only: stopping the spread of good, Christian values.
STOP THE WAR ON CHICK-FIL-A
You know I love a delicious chicken sandwich as much as anyone else, but this is about much more than chicken. Think of the message the actions of the left send:
• If you have a deeply-held belief in God, you better keep it to yourself.
• If you want to run your business according to your values, don’t even think about it.
STOP LIBERAL ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANITY
XXX, the anti-religious behavior of so many members of the left is cause for immediate concern. That’s why I am fighting as hard as I can to stand up to the extreme left and stop any and all advances on our conservative values. Will you stand with me?
I need you to join with me to defend the freedom of religion, and to stop the extreme left!
— Senator John Cornyn