The newly formed Texas House LGBTQ Caucus effectively killed a House bill that they argued would be discriminatory against the LGBTQ community, but supporters of the bill said would protect religious liberties.
House Bill 3172, also called the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, would have prohibited government from taking “adverse action” against any individuals or businesses based on membership, support or donations to religious groups.
Texas state Rep. Matt Krause, who authored the bill, told CNN on Friday that San Antonio’s decision to exclude the fast food chain from the San Antonio International Airport “crystalized and clarified why we need this bill.”
On Thursday, Democratic House Rep. Julie Johnson, one of the caucus’ five members, used a parliamentary action to delay the bill and ultimately kill the legislation.
Midnight on Thursday was the deadline for the Republican-controlled House to consider legislation out of the chamber. Johnson had raised a “point of order” on the bill twice – with her second attempt successful, arguing that the bill’s analysis was inaccurate.
“Bills like this are hurtful. They cause pain. And we can’t allow religion to be a cover for discrimination,” Johnson told CNN in an interview Friday.
Krause told CNN he fundamentally disagrees with Johnson that the bill is “any way discriminatory.”
“You can’t read any discriminatory language in this bill,” said Krause, a third-term Republican, who added that he and Johnson get along great.
When it was first introduced in March by Krause, the bill would have restricted any governmental entity from “adverse action” against a person or business “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.”
The bill was changed in April and voted out of committee last Wednesday, 9-2.
“It protects Ben & Jerry’s as much as it protects Chick-fil-A. …The government should not be penalizing, should not taking adverse action against you for your belief on a marriage,” Krause said in April during a committee public hearing.
Johnson told CNN she thought Krause’s original bill had “extreme language” and appreciated his “open dialogue” and that “he tried to improve the bill.”
But, she added, “it still discriminated against our community.”
“Proud of (Johnson) and the (Texas LGBQT caucus) for stopping the anti-LGBTQ bill that would have legalized discrimination and cost Texas billions of dollars in business. Once again, Texas does not stand for hate,” the Texas Democratic Party said on Twitter Thursday.
“Texas Democrats have stifled religious liberty and the freedom to support any organization or belief they do not agree with,” Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey said in a statement, arguing that HB 3172 “sought to defend Texans from government persecution based on their beliefs - which everyone should be in favor of.”
“Instead, Texas Democrats continue to show their true colors by denying Texans their Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms,” Dickey added.
The House will now hear Senate bills before the legislative session is over on May 27.
“We still have to be vigilant but hopefully given the resounding joy that went though the House chamber when we were successful, on both Democrats and Republicans, hopefully this is over for this session and we can focus on the important things like the education bill,” Johnson said.
Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes has introduced a companion bill, which has been referred to the Senate State Affairs committee.
While he was disappointed HB 3172 didn’t pass, Krause told CNN that he’s “very much in favor” if the Senate sent over their bill to the House.
“We worked really hard on (the bill) … I think it’s an important issue. I think it’s an important conversation to have that we didn’t get to last night,” Krause said. “Maybe we’ll be able to have that discussion before the session ends.”
Conservative religious rights’ group Texas Values, who was confident HB 3172 would pass, argued the bill “fell on a technicality despite overwhelming and bipartisan support.”
Jonathan Saenz, the president of Texas Values’ legislative action arm, said in a statement, that the group is “prepared to get (the Senate bill) moving immediately.”
“This common-sense religious freedom effort is far from over. We will not allow the clear will of the majority of Texans and a bipartisan majority of the Texas Legislature to be thwarted by a few,” Saenz said.
In March, San Antonio’s city council approved a new concessions contract for the San Antonio International Airport – on the condition that Chick-fil-A be excluded.
The Texas attorney general’s office opened an investigation into whether the city of San Antonio violated Chick-fil-A’s religious liberty over its decision.
The fast food chain has been criticized by supporters of same-sex marriage in recent years after its president, Dan Cathy, said the company supported “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the first name of Texas state Rep. Matt Krause.