The Texas House passed a religious liberty bill on Monday that prohibits the state government from punishing individuals or organizations for their “membership in, affiliation with, or contribution … to a religious organization”.
Texas’ first-ever LGBTQ Caucus tried to stop it procedurally and five women from the Caucus tearfully implored senators not to pass the bill, but it’s headed to the governor anyway.
“This bill is going to pass; let’s face it,” said Democratic state Rep. Celia Israel, according to the Texas Tribune. “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 was far more extreme and took away all of the protections that currently exist for gay communities in Texas. But the legislation has been significantly watered down until it’s really just a reiteration of so-called religious liberty protections that already exist.
Democrats attacking the bill said that passing this legislation would hurt Republicans’ chances of getting reelected in 2020 and would cost Texans in taxes.
“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 Democratic state Rep. Julie Johnson. “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.”
LGBTQ employees already have basically zero protections at the state level. Although some cities in Texas have added protections, there is no state law that prohibits employers from firing workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Even though the bill also doesn’t allow the attorney general to sue governmental entities accused of religious discrimination after it was weakened by Republican House sponsor Rep. Matt Krause, individuals and organizations can.
Texas has a diverse LGBTQ population. Texas is home to 600,000 LGBTQ adults and 46,000 same-sex couples. Approximately 38 percent of LGBTQ people in Texas are Latino, 15 percent are African-American and 46 percent are white.