Texas Senate passes anti-LGBT ‘freedom to discriminate’ bill

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick addresses the crowd at a rally in support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on October 22, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

The Texas state senate has passed a bill that would create an overriding public license for discrimination against LGBT+ people.

Texas state senators approved the controversial Senate Bill 17 by a vote of 19-12 on Tuesday (April 2).

The bill, submitted by Senator Charles Perry, would bar professional licensing bodies in the state from taking action against individuals who violate professional standards on discrimination, as long as they assert a religious justification for doing so.

Texas bill would permit professional discrimination against LGBT+ people

The broad law would apply to the more than 200 professions that require a professional license in Texas, including teachers, fire fighters, doctors, architects, funeral directors, building inspectors, social workers, counselors, psychologists, therapists, judges, veterinarians, pipefitters, auditors and surgeons.

Campaigners say that its effect would be to create a sweeping right to discriminate across all such professions, by preventing any action from licensing bodies.

The law includes narrow exemptions from police officers and those providing emergency medical care, who would be the only professional groups who could face action for discriminating against LGBT+ people.

The bill will now head to the Texas House of Representatives.

LGBT+ campaigners: Texas bill ‘opens door’ to discrimination

Human Rights Campaign’s Texas state director Rebecca Marques said: “Today’s vote on SB 17 marks a dark moment for Texas: the passage of one of the most broadly discriminatory bills under consideration across the country.

“This bill would allow state-sanctioned discrimination against many Texans, but would particularly impact the LGBTQ community.”

Marques criticised the state’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick for backing the bill, after years of battles over LGBT+ rights in the state.

She said: “Before the session began, Texas’ elected officials promised to focus on key issues important to all Texans and not to revisit the fights of the previous session.

“Instead, it’s legislative deja vu, as Dan Patrick is pushing a discriminatory anti-LGBTQ agenda yet again.”

Texas Lt. Govenor Dan Patrick

Texas Lt. Govenor Dan Patrick (Bob Levey/Getty)

Adriana Píñon, senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Texas, said: “Our federal and state laws already amply protect religious liberty.

“SB 17, on the other hand, freely opens the door to discrimination against anyone, especially leaving LGBTQ Texans vulnerable.

“Religious freedom does not include the right to foist your religious beliefs onto others or demand that taxpayers subsidize discrimination based on religious objections.”

Both Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU of Texas called on the Texas House of Representatives to reject the “dangerous, unnecessary” bill, which would likely be subject to legal challenge if it passes.

It is far from the only anti-LGBT legislation on the table in the Texas legislature this year, with a wave of discriminatory bills on the table.

The Texas Republican Party continues to be dominated by anti-LGBT views.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans, were banned from having a stall at the 2018 Texas Republican convention.

The denial marked the 20th successive year in which the Log Cabin Republicans have been refused permission to attend the convention.