State lawmakers in Texas are back to pushing an anti-LGBT agenda with a bill that would allow doctors, attorneys, and other professionals licensed by the state to discriminate in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Dallas News reported on Tuesday that Senate Bill 17, brought by Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would bar the state’s licensing boards from creating rules that burden "an applicant's or license holder's free exercise of religion," free speech "regarding a sincerely held religious belief" or membership in a religious organization.
The bill passed the Senate State Affairs Committee in a 7 to 1 vote and now heads for a full Senate debate. One Democratic senator voted against the measure, and another voted with his Republican colleagues, Dallas News said.
Perry insisted that his bill does not grant permission to discriminate, saying, "This bill seeks to ensure that no person is hindered from seeking an occupational license, or loses their license, based on their faith. This bill does not — I repeat, this bill does not permit an individual to violate state or federal law."
However, members of and advocates for the LGBT community showed up in large numbers to disagree with Perry’s characterization of the bill, which carves out just two exceptions: it “does not allow someone to cite his or her faith in refusing to provide lifesaving medical treatment, and also does not apply to law enforcement.”
A number of those opposing the legislation were members of the clergy who decried what they see as an attempt to weaponize religion.
"Licensing requirements exist to ensure the public that a professional or business is subject to objective standards, not subjective opinions," Rabbi Nancy Kasten said. "The ability to live freely according to one's religious beliefs, practices and observances should never be confused with permission to use faith as a weapon against those who do not share the same views or beliefs."
Kasten also said Perry’s bill "distorts the notion of religious freedom in order to legitimize discrimination by state-licensed businesses, occupations and professions."
Dallas News said the bill is unlikely to encounter much resistance in the Senate, adding that an “identical bill in the Texas House by Weatherford Republican Phil King has not been debated yet.”