Texas’ controversial “Save Chick-Fil-A bill is one step closer to the governor’s desk.
It passed the state House after a heated debate between lawmakers.
Supporters the bill say protects First Amendment rights, but opponents argue it encourages discrimination.
The back and forth between lawmakers lasted all day on the House floor as they debated SB 1978, which would prohibit government entities from punishing individuals or organizations for their “membership in, affiliation with, or contribution … to a religious organization.”
This debate comes after San Antonio’s city council blocked Chick-Fil-A from opening in their airport because of the business’ charitable contributions to organizations with anti-LGBT histories.
Opponents of the bill say this will lead to businesses discriminating against the LGBT community.
In its original form, the bill contained sweeping religious refusals language that opponents said could gut the few existing protections in Texas law for gay communities, part of anti-LGBTQ model legislation appearing in various state legislatures.
As it has made its way through the Legislature, the bill has mostly been stripped of its more controversial provisions, leaving a version that largely codifies existing legal protections: freedom of religion and freedom of association.
Among the provisions stripped from the bill were protections for beliefs in traditional (non-same sex) marriage and a provision that would have allowed the Texas attorney general to bring lawsuits against governmental entities accused of religious discrimination.
Rep. Jessica González, a Democrat representing Dallas, tried to amend the bill with protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination from employers and the government, but the amendment failed.
Texas currently has no state law protecting workers from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
As the debate wore on throughout the day, both sides refused to budge.
“We don’t want to create a bad business environment to where we think that they come in here just based on their private donations that they’re going to receive adverse action from the government,” said State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), the bill’s House sponsor.
“I need you, both my Democratic and Republican colleagues, to stand in support of the health and safety of LGBTQ children,” said State Rep. Celia Israel, a member of the Texas LGBTQ Caucus formed this year.
The House has a final reading and passage of the bill Tuesday, but Monday’s vote was the last major hurdle before getting to the governor’s desk.