The Texas House’s newly-formed LGBTQ caucus on Friday successfully blocked legislation introduced by Republicans to prevent religious discrimination by local governments.
The so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, which was introduced in response to the San Antonio City Council’s decision to ban Chick-fil-A from the city’s airports, would prohibit local-government bodies from taking any “adverse action” against a business based on its owner’s contributions to, or membership in, any religious organization.
Democratic state representative Julie Johnson, one of five members of the LGBTQ caucus, successfully blocked the bill by twice raising a “point of order” to delay a vote until the House’s midnight-Thursday deadline to consider new legislation had passed.
“Bills like this are hurtful. They cause pain. And we can’t allow religion to be a cover for discrimination,” Johnson told CNN in an interview Friday.
Republican representative Matt Krause told CNN that Democrats’ opposition to the legislation “crystalized and clarified why we need this bill.”
“You can’t read any discriminatory language in this bill,” he added.
The San Antonio City Council effectively banned Chick-fil-A from the city’s airport in March by making the facility’s concessions license contingent on Chick-fil-A’s exclusion. The move came after a report that the company had donated $2 million to the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a home for troubled young men that encourages adherence to traditional Christian sexual ethics.
Democratic City Council members said that they were motivated to exclude Chick-fil-A from the airport in order to make all travelers, including members of the LGBTQ community, feel welcome when they arrived in the city. Texas Republicans, meanwhile, have argued that the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill should be considered uncontroversial, since it simply prevents religious discrimination.
“Texas Democrats have stifled religious liberty and the freedom to support any organization or belief they do not agree with,” Texas GOP chairman James Dickey said in a statement, adding that the bill “sought to defend Texans from government persecution based on their beliefs – which everyone should be in favor of.”
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton announced in March that he would investigate whether the City Council’s move violates state laws protecting religious freedom, and has also requested a federal probe.