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Controversial 'Save Chick-fil-A' Bill Passes in Texas

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The Texas House of Representatives approved what’s been dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill Monday, preventing state and local governments from punishing individuals or businesses because of their membership in or donations to religious organizations, including anti-LGBTQ ones.

[Click here to listen to The Ten podcast break down what this means for LGBTQ people in Texas and the implications it could have on other states.]

The House version of the bill was declared dead early this month when Rep. Julie Johnson, a Democrat and a lesbian, used a procedural move to keep it from coming up for debate by the House’s deadline to consider bills that originated in the chamber. But it could still consider Senate-originated bills, so the Senate fast-tracked its version, held a hearing with no notice and no witnesses, and passed it last week.

Today the House OK’d that version, largely along party lines, although one Republican, Sarah Davis, broke with her party to oppose it, The Dallas Morning News reports.

The bill’s language was slightly changed in the House, so it will go back to the Senate for final approval before going to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature or veto. Media reports don’t indicate whether he’ll sign it, but he does have a long and strong anti-LGBTQ record, so it’s a likely that he will.

The measure is aimed at situations like the one that occurred in San Antonio earlier this year, when the City Council voted not to allow a Chick-fil-A in the local airport because of the company’s donations to homophobic organizations.

“What we want to make sure is if you donate to the Salvation Army, you won’t be labeled as a bigoted,” said Rep. Matt Krause, chief sponsor of the House version, according to the Morning News.

Chick-fil-A has donated to the Salvation Army, which has a checkered record on LGBTQ issues, as well as overtly anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home. It has done so within the past few years despite earlier pledges to back away from such donations.

Chick -fil-A executives, including CEO Dan Cathy, have also spoken out against LGBTQ rights, including marriage equality.

LGBTQ members of the House spoke out passionately against the bill, saying it would enable discrimination.

“Of course this bill is aimed at me,” said Rep. Jessica Gonzalez, a Latina lesbian. “It’s about reminding those of us who have never belonged not to get too comfortable.” She also mentioned the death of Muhlaysia Booker, a Dallas transgender woman who was found dead of a gunshot wound Saturday, a month after she had been beaten in the parking lot of an apartment complex.

“Ms. Booker’s death is a tragic reminder that bills like Senate Bill 1978 foment hatred and endanger the lives of all minority Texans,” she said in a statement after the measure passed, the Morning News reports.

Earlier versions of the House and Senate bills, which provided a broader license to discriminate, appeared to be copied from model legislation drafted by a right-wing group called Project Blitz, NBC News reports.

“If it’s not amended, the real-world consequences are fairly broad,” Dan Quinn, research director for the Texas Freedom Network, told NBC. Under the original versions of the bills, religious views could have been used as a justification for denying housing, employment, or service at businesses, he said.

Fourteen bills based on Project Blitz’s models have been introduced in Texas this year alone, independent campaign finance tracker Chris Tackett told NBC.

Over the past few years, Project Blitz bills introduced in Texas and elsewhere have usually stalled or failed, but one became law in Texas in 2017 — allowing adoption agencies, even those that receive state funds, to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others who offend the operator’s religious beliefs.

[Listen to Texas vs. Chick-Fil-A, an all-new episode of The Ten podcast.]

RELATED | Chick-fil-A Exec on Antigay Donations: We Answer to a 'Higher Calling'

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