Texas GOP Sen. Introduces Bill to Discriminate Against LGBTs

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Nov 13, 2014

A Texas Republican senator introduced a measure Monday that would allow businesses and services to openly discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs, Lone Star Q reports.

Donna Campbell's measure, Senate Joint Resolution 10, was filed Monday, which happens to be the first day lawmakers can file bills in advance for the legislative session that starts in January. This is also the second time Campbell has pushed for such a bill. Last year, she introduced Senate Join Resolution 4, which was backed by the anti-gay group Texas Values.

"Government may not burden an individual's or religious organization's freedom of religion or right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief unless the government proves that the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and it the least restrictive means of furthering that interest," the measure reads. "For purposes of this subsection, the term 'burden' includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, and denying access to facilities or programs."

The newspaper points out that Texas already has a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and it has similar language to SJR 10. But the new measure would take things to a new level:

"For example, while the RFRA says government 'may not substantially burden' an individual's religious freedom, SJR10 states only that government "may not burden" an individual's religious freedom," Lone Star Q writes. "Removing the word 'substantially' would significantly alter the scope of the law, as outlined in testimony from former state Rep. Scott Hochberg in 2013. Also, unlike the RFRA, Campbell's proposal doesn't include exceptions for enforcement of civil rights laws."

The last time Campbell pushed for an anti-gay measure, other members of the Senate, who said the bill could be used by religious extremists, criticized her, the Texas Monthly reports (via the Advocate).

"While I know everyone here represents what I would call traditional religious groups, there are religious groups that have very, very different fundamental beliefs," Leticia Van de Putte, the chair of the Senate's committee on veterans' affairs, said at the time. "Could this resolution lead to our inability to protect their religious beliefs from infringing on our military funerals?"

SJR 10 would amend the state constitution and if the state Senate and House approve it, voters in Texas will have to vote on the measure in November 2015.

You may be getting flashbacks to earlier this year when Arizona was in the spotlight after the state's legislature approved a similar measure that would allow business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers because of religions beliefs. Gov. Jan Brewer, vetoed a measure, however.

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