86th LegislatureIssuesState HouseState SenateChick-fil-A Religious Liberty Bill Still Alive in the Texas Legislature

Legislation aimed at protecting individuals and businesses who donate to religious causes is still alive after a bipartisan vote in the Texas Senate.
May 17, 2019
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In late March, the San Antonio City Council passed a motion that excluded Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport due to the company’s alleged “anti-LGBT” track record. In response, conservatives have sought to defend businesses from what they see as government-sanctioned violations of religious liberty.

Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) is the author of Senate Bill 1978, the Senate version of House Bill 3172, which prohibits the government from punishing individuals based on their religious affiliations or donations.

SB 1978 passed the Senate yesterday in a bipartisan 19-12 vote, with Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) voting in favor and Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) opposing.

HB 3172, authored by Rep. Matt Krause (R-Forth Worth), was halted last week when the House LGBTQ Caucus invoked a point of order regarding a technical error in the construction of the bill. However, the passage of the Senate version means that the legislation remains in play for passage before the end of the session.

In response to accusations that the company is  “anti-LGBT” and supports discriminatory organizations, Chick-fil-A released the following statement,

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“The Foundation’s giving helps with economic mobility of young people by focusing on homelessness and poverty, education, and community revitalization, and is done with no political or social agenda. The narrative that our giving was done to support a political or non-inclusive agenda is inaccurate and misleading.”

Chick-fil-A disclosed the charities they supported which have been described as “discriminatory” by LGBT advocates. These organizations include the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Salvation Army, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

Chick-fil-A was included in Glassdoor’s Top 100 Best Places to Work in 2018.

When asked about SB 1978, which would prevent the government from punishing individuals based on their religious affiliations, Chick-fil-A Inc. responded saying, “Chick-fil-A was not involved with, nor did we organize any events related to, this bill in any way. We are a restaurant company focused on food and hospitality for all, and we have no social or political stance. We are grateful for all our customers and are glad to serve them at any time. We welcome and embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

During a debate on the Senate floor, Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) raised concerns from his office and his constituents, saying, “They (LGBT community) feel like they are coming under attack because of who they are…what do you say to them in terms of why you want to do this legislation (SB 1978)?”

The Texan contacted Sen. Hughes’ office to get a response to the question posed by Sen. Menendez and those who fear this bill will be used to discriminate against LGBT Texans.

Sen. Hughes responded, “I would just ask folks to read the bill that the Senate passed today. There’s not an ounce of discrimination in [SB 1978].”

Hughes continued, “The bill says that whoever you are – rich, poor, liberal, conservative…your government can’t punish you for giving to a group like the Salvation Army.”

While many LGBT groups have been fighting against this and similar legislation, conservative religious liberty groups like Texas Values have been standing in support.

Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values said, “This bipartisan Texas Senate vote on the Chick-fil-A bill was essential for religious freedom and government accountability. It’s late but there is still enough time for this must-pass bill to get approval in the House and go to Gov. Abbott for his signature.”

First Liberty, a similar non-profit public interest law firm has urged the federal government to investigate whether the city violated federal nondiscrimination laws by basing its decision to prohibit Chick-fil-A on the religious beliefs and charitable giving of the popular chain’s foundation.

After the vote to exclude Chick-fil-A, San Antonio City Councilman Robert Trevino remarked, “With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

SB 1978 awaits potential action in the Texas House, but with only 10 days remaining in the session, there’s no guarantee the legislation will be processed in time.

However, reports indicate that the House could be in for a rare Saturday session tomorrow to provide more time to process additional bills.

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Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo is a reporter for The Texan. He has been involved in politics since the fall of 2012 when he served as an intern for the now-retired U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio). He is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University.