AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The debate didn’t come as a surprise and in the end it didn’t change any votes. But there were a few unexpected tests.
"No one was shaking their fist at God,” said house Democratic party leader Rep Chris Turner. The statement by the Arlington Democratic kicked off the last attempt to challenge Rep. Matt Krause and his bill, SB 1978.
The legislation, known as the 'Save Chick Fil-A' bill, pushed through the Texas legislature after the City of San Antonio refused to allow the Christian-owned restaurant to open in its airport. The company’s support of anti-gay organizations was cited in media reports for the exclusion.
Tuesday, those who supported the bill disputed that claim. That set up a passionate exchange about who is being protected and who could be hurt with Rep Matt Schaefer (R) Tyler.
“And we have 28 million people in this state, many of whom are LGBTQ, and this bill marginalizes them. And that’s what im concerned about.”
“Well, let me ask you this Mr. Turner if, my company gives donations to a church that believes a marriage is between a man and a woman, should any city council be able to refuse me as a vendor simply because I make donations to my church that holds a biblical view of marriage, should they have that right?”
“I would argue that in the scenario you just described your rights are protected under the first amendment.”
"Well see that’s not what happened to Chick Fil-A. The City of San Antonio ...”
“So you’re saying the first amendment failed?”
In response to Turner’s question, Rep Schaefer accused San Antonio of ignoring the constitution. He later defended the strong response from the state when FOX 7 asked if supporters of SB 1978 could have gone with a resolution. “The reason why you don’t want to do that is you want to make sure that everybody has the full force of the law protecting them, we’re talking about the first amendment, the most important amendment in the bill of rights. You don’t want just words on paper, you want something that has force and effect. That really has the ability to protect people in their sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Schaefer.
During the debate, it was noted by Turner, protecting the rights of Chick Fil-A is in conflict with another controversial peice of legislation - HB 89. The bill was made law during the previous sesion.
It requires anyone who has a state contract to make a promise that they will not boycott Isreal.
Individuals are now being exempted but its mixed message was a critical point for Turner.
“I think to say that we will, the state of Texas, will discriminate against someone based on expressing their viewpoint on this matter, but we will ensure that other groups are able to express discriminatory viewpoints and we will protect those on a different matter is whole inconsistent,” said Turner..
The bill passed on a 79 to 64 vote.
Moments earlier, Democrat Richard Raymond urged lawmakers to be more open minded to the things that continue to divide them. “And someday, we will all get there, those who support this bill and those who oppose this bill. Someday we will get there. We are not there today, but we hope by us standing up here and we’re talking and you are listening to us and you see the red votes up there that you understand we don’t believe we’re quite there just yet,” said Raymond. (D) Laredo.
In other key votes, the house approved SB 11 - which is a new school safety bill. It calls for several reforms which includes requiring regular assessments and new security upgrades.
Another safety bill in response to recent cases of gun violence, SB 535, also passed. The bill makes it legal for churches to allow people to carry guns to services.
House members also approved the creation of a special district in West Austin.
The 'Save Munie' bill allows residents who live around the historic Lions Municipal Golf Course
to vote on whether or not to pay an extra fee on their utility bills. The money would help maintain the property if the city is successful and taking it over from UT Austin.