TEXAS, March 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A coalition of business interests is descending on Texas lawmakers to pressure them to abandon several pieces of pending legislation that would protect various professionals in the state from being forced to engage in practices that violate their consciences on issues such as abortion and sexuality.
The Texas Legislature is currently considering a handful of religious-freedom bills, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
They would bar state licensing agencies from limiting professionals’ ability to act on a “sincerely held religious belief,” let medical professionals refuse to provide non-emergency treatments such as abortions, let Texans choose not to provide goods, services, or participation to same-sex “weddings,” let judges refuse to perform “marriages” that conflict with their religious beliefs, protect businesses’ right to segregate bathrooms based on biological sex, and allow religious groups including university organizations limit hiring, renting, or membership to individuals who abide by the group’s religious tenets.
Authored by Republican state Sen. Charles Perry, the bill regulating licensing agencies (SB 17) was the focus of public scrutiny this week, with most of the nearly 60 people who testified Monday before the Senate State Affairs Committee opposed. Foes of the bills claim they authorize “discrimination” against homosexual or gender-confused Texans. Yet SB 17 cleared the committee 7-1, with Democrat state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. joining every Republican member.
“Living our faith does not stop when we start to work,” Perry said. “When we see what we may perceive as immoralities, those people who hold those beliefs should be able to defend their faith … without fear of losing their livelihood and their license.”
SB 17 is said to be a top priority of Texas’ Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but a coalition of corporations and business groups including Google, Amazon, IBM, Texas businesses, and over a dozen state chambers of commerce hope to derail it and the rest of the measures, the Associated Press reports.
“We will continue to oppose any unnecessary, discriminatory, and divisive measures that would damage Texas’ reputation and create problems for our employees and their families,” the group declared Wednesday in a letter to lawmakers. “These include policies that explicitly or implicitly allow for exclusion of LGBTQ people, or anyone else, as well as the preemption of municipal nondiscrimination laws, in whole or in part.”
John Graham, president and CEO of American Society of Association Executives warned that Texans would suffer lost jobs and economic activity if it enacted the bills. “That’s exactly what happened in North Carolina when they passed that bill and they lost billions of dollars and they’re still paying that price,” he declared.
Perry responded to the group’s threats by noting that under his bill, licensed professionals “must still follow all state and federal laws and abide by the standard of care in their profession,” and lamenting “that businesses or anyone for that matter would be against protecting one of our basic core principles of who were are as a nation.”