A group of conservative state lawmakers - has filed a package of bills - they say: will protect religious liberty. But advocates for the LGBT community fear the legislation will only be a license to discriminate.
The legislation is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for gay marriage. Now there is concern, that ruling and other recently passed anti- discrimination laws will have a chilling effect on religious freedom.
Several of the bills deal with issues like preventing HOA’s from not allowing religious displays in neighborhoods during the holidays, and nullifying state rules that require religious organizations to use licensed security guards for things like to directing parking lot traffic. But there's also proposed legislation that seems to be drafted as a response to the legalization of gay marriage. One bill includes allowing church based foster care agencies to decline the placement of children with same-sex couples.
“It’s basically saying the government can’t discriminate one way or the other, people are free to believe what they believe, we know there is going to be disagreement on this issue, that’s ok, that’s what this country is built upon, robust debate and differing views, we just don’t want the state coming in and imposing any kind of burden or restriction on people for what they believe,” said State Rep. Matt Krause (R) Fort Worth.
Gay rights advocates believe the bills were only drafted in order to create a license to discriminate.
"Religion is harmed when it is used as a weapon, to divide our communities, and we are all harmed when people, hide behind religion and refuse to obey laws that apply to everyone just because they disagree,” said Kathy Miller with the Texas Freedom Network.
An example of what many of the bills are trying to address happened Thursday. The Washington state Supreme Court ruled against a florist who refused to make arrangements for a gay wedding. The florist claimed 1st Amendment protection, but the Washington court in a 59 page ruling stated that free-speech and religious freedom do not justify a refusal to sell flowers, even if another store could have served the couple.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today released the following statement after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against the constitutional rights of Arlene’s Flowers’ owner Barronelle Stuztman:
“The First Amendment guarantees the liberty to speak freely, and the fundamental right to disagree. The government cannot force individuals to create art against their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs. Today’s display of intolerance by the Washington State Supreme Court both defies the Constitution and seeks to outlaw the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Compelling individuals to speak messages against their sincerely held beliefs is un-American and unconstitutional.”