Opposition to religious freedom bills digging in

The rally located along the west side of UT's iconic clock tower didn't attract a large crowd but those at this gathering were passionate in defense the transgender community.

The UT Austin rally coincided with similar events at college campuses in San Antonio, San Marcos, Houston and Edinburg. They were organized to voice opposition to controversial bills drafted to protect privacy and religious freedoms.

"If these bills are about freedom they'd include freedom for LGBTQ people using religion as a means to hate people isn't acceptable and that’s what we are fighting against,” said rally organizer Richelle King.
         
Under the capitol dome there are about two dozen bills that opponents claim promote discrimination. Among them, SB6 which regulates access to bathrooms by a person's gender at birth and HB 2899, which almost became a House version of the Bathroom Bill.  HB2899 prevents local communities from exceeding current state and federal law by granting extra privileges to specific individuals. Conservative groups like Texas values argue the bills are necessary.

"We believe there is a diversity of views in our state on these issues and there should be room in society and in law for us to have an inclusive approach and no one should be punished by the government because of their religious beliefs or we don’t think there should be a de facto religious test for someone to hold a government position like a county clerk,” said Nicole Hudgens with Texas Values.

SB 522 would give county clerks - who object to gay marriage- legal protection if they refuse to sign a marriage license. The document would still have to be issued. HBB892 also gives legal cover to faith based foster care providers who object to gay couples adopting children in their care.
That bill is endorsed by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.
 
"What's different about these bills than efforts in the past is that these bills very clearly allow us to provide the service according to our Christian role, but require the department of family and protective services to ensure there are alternate and willing providers in the geographic region to provide services to everyone, so the goal is to have a diverse network of providers each serving their goals and their needs,” said Jennifer Allmon with the Conference.

But those at the rally are convinced they're being targeted.

"LGBTQ people are not scary we are friendly we are your friends, family, your coworkers whether you now it or not. Some of us are out, some of us are not, and we are people just like you, and we deserve the same rights, we deserve the same access to public facilities, because we are people, and we deserve the same rights as everybody else,” said King.

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