Looking ahead to the debate over religious freedom laws

There was a preview Tuesday of a brewing battle that may take place under the capitol dome. It's a debate that puts religious freedom and civil liberty at odds.

A floor debate on gay and religious rights has not yet been scheduled inside the Texas capitol. But Tuesday morning house member Rafael Anchia promised. if and when one happens, there will be stiff opposition.

"I say that very confidently, and it just won't be Democrats who will stop it, I think this will be a bi-partisan effort, because people are concern about the Texas economy and about business," said Anchia.

To emphasize that point the Dallas democrat stood with Bill Hammond, the head of the Texas Association of Business, and was also joined by other civil rights advocates. They voiced opposition to legislation which is similar to laws that have caused social firestorms in Arkansas and Indiana.

"Given what's transpired in Indiana, many people have awakened to the problems that will result from this misguided legislation. Obviously the Indiana legislature reacted to it and is trying to make up but so much damage has been doing to that state that it will be hard to repair it and we certainly don't want that to happen in Texas," said Hammond.

There are two religious freedom resolutions under consideration. SJR 10 by Senator Donna Campbell (R) New Braunfels, and HJR 125 by Representative Matt Krause (R) Forth Worth. Both would amend the state constitution - if approved by a final statewide vote. The proposed legislation would add legal teeth to the religious freedom act that is already on the books in Texas. Essentially, it will allow individuals to challenge a law if they believe it causes a burden on their religious belief.

Representative Krause disputes claims he is providing a license to discriminate.

"I think there is a lot of misinformation and I think there is a parade of Horrible out there that are going to come to fruition if you have a religious liberty amendment," said Krause.

The Fort Worth republican says while the act could support a baker's decision to not make a cake for a gay couple's wedding; it could not be used to fire someone from a job - or to refuse serving someone at a restaurant.

"They could try to say that, try to take that into court, but I don't think that would ever hold up, again it doesn't guarantee success, it just gives you entrance into court and if you say I don't want to serve, blank, I don't think that is going to hold up in court."

Krause is looking forward to a debate  but because of the warnings of an economic fallout- that discussion may not happen this session.

Debates may take place on other bills that are described as anti-gay by the Texas Freedom Network. They include: 6 bills the organization claims will prevent gay marriage from being recognized in Texas. 5 bills to nullify non-discrimination ordinances passed by city councils like one in Austin. Three bills to regulate which restrooms transgender people can use. There are also 4 bills the Freedom Network argues would allow religion to be used to justify discrimination.


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