AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas state lawmaker has introduced a bill aimed at making it legal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Raw Story reports that State Sen. Donna Campbell, a Tea Party affiliated Republican, has proposed an amendment to the state constitution to protect the “religious freedom” of Texas Christians.
The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 10, would enable Texans to refuse to provide goods and services to individuals or groups if they feel that doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
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Think Progress notes that Texas is the latest in a growing number of state legislatures that have considered putting the religious rights of business owners over the civil rights of would-be customers:
Similar proposals in Kansas, North Carolina, South Dakota, Arizona, and Oregon ultimately failed this year, while a number of other states have held that the law protects LGBT folks from discrimination even if that discrimination is based in scripture.
Mississippi signed a license to discriminate into law, and Kentucky lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto to put their own religious freedom law into effect. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers who are trying to extend non-discrimination protections to LGBT couples haveso far been stymied.
These laws have come into vogue after numerous anti-LGBT small business owners have refused service to LGBT clients in Kentucky, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Iowa, Colorado, and other states in recent years.
Many of these disputes involve bakeries and other vendors who refuse to contract for services at same-sex weddings, but some businesses have refused to print Pride t-shirts or put rainbow frosting on an order of cookies.
Campbell’s bill was met with unexpected opposition by critics who say the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by the legislature in 1999, already prevents government agencies from “substantially burdening a person’s free exercise of religion” unless there is “a compelling governmental interest to do so.”
Campbell responded that her resolution is an attempt to put the existing statute in “a more formidable position, which is the state constitution.”
The measure, if passed by lawmakers, would also need to be approved by voters