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Lesbian Texas Lawmaker Kills 'License to Discriminate' Bill

Rep. Julie Johnson
Julie Johnson

State Rep. Julie Johnson and the legislature's LGBTQ Caucus managed to keep the bill from coming up before the deadline for action.

A lesbian lawmaker in Texas has managed to kill a "license to discriminate" bill.

Rep. Julie Johnson, a Democrat from the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, "used a legislative maneuver known as a 'point of order' to bump the bill from the debate calendar" Thursday, the deadline for House members to pass measures that originated in the chamber, The Dallas Morning News reports.

The legislation, House Bill 3172, would have barred the state government, city and county governments, and courts from taking "adverse action" against an individual, organization, or business for "membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation or other support" of a religious group.

Its proponents said it would have prevented actions such as the San Antonio City Council's decision not to allow a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the city's airport because of the company's donations to anti-LGBTQ groups, leading some opponents to call it the "Save Chick-fil-A Bill." Some others called it "Bathroom Bill 2.0," a reference to the anti-transgender measure that failed to pass in 2017.

HB 3172's language had been toned down from when it was initially filed. It originally intended to prevent "adverse action" against people or entities for their "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction, including beliefs or convictions regarding marriage," the Morning News notes. But even with the new language, LGBTQ activities and allies warned that it would give legal protection to discrimination. Many major corporations opposed the bill as well, saying it would be bad for business in Texas.

Johnson said the legislature's newly formed LGBTQ Caucus came up with the strategy to kill HB 3172. "First, she offered a point of order arguing the amended bill improperly expanded its scope," according to the Morning News. "That was shot down. Then, Johnson said an analysis of the bill's effects was inaccurate. That point of order was valid, parliamentarians said." And it got the measure removed from consideration.

A few legislators cheered, and someone played a recording of the famous military bugle call "Taps."

"Hopefully this is the day discrimination against the LGBT community dies in the Texas House," Johnson told the Morning News. "I feel great. ... I'm going to go celebrate." She said that although she introduced the point of order, the entire LGBTQ Caucus deserves credit for killing the bill.

"It was an honor to be chosen to be the messenger," she told the paper. "The LGBTQ Caucus is in the House. We're getting things done and we're here to stay."

Rep. Matt Krause, the Republican who introduced the bill, said he would try to find a way to revive it in this legislative session. The House can still debate and vote on bills that originated in the Senate, and language similar to that in HB 3172 could be added to one of those measures.

Right now, though, LGBTQ Texans are happy and relieved.

"Texans have been loud and clear: They want real solutions for their families, not more bathroom nonsense," said a statement issued by Glen Maxey, legislative affairs director for the Texas Democratic Party. "The Republican Bathroom Bill 2.0 was another reckless, cruel, and anti-LGBTQ proposal."

"It was bad for business, bad for Texans, and just downright wrong. Texas Democrats fight for equality at every turn because every American deserves equal treatment under the law -- no matter who they are or who they love," he continued.

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