On Monday, for the second time in less than a week, legislation promoting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people hit a roadblock in the Texas House. That’s good news. What’s not is that the lawmaker promoting that discrimination amendment was willing to put abused and neglected children at further risk so that he could push a shameful political agenda.
Monday’s action came during debate on SB 206, the sunset reauthorization bill for the Department of Family and Protective Services. During the debate, Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, proposed an amendment allowing child welfare service providers that contract with the state to use religion to discriminate.
Sanford’s intent, of course, was to promote discrimination against LGBT people seeking to care for children in the state’s protective services system. But his amendment would go far beyond that by also allowing providers to discriminate against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom the provider has religious objections. As written, the amendment could also make it difficult for the state to stop service providers from forcing lesbian and gay minors into abusive and discredited reparative “therapy” programs that seek to change someone’s sexual orientation.
Opponents, mostly House Democrats, were rightly appalled. So state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, used a point of order — a technical objection — to halt consideration of SB 206 and send the bill back to committee. With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, the fate of that agency reauthorization bill is unclear.
Now stop and think about this for a moment. Rep. Sanford had already been warned that his amendment jeopardized passage of SB 206, which reauthorizes an agency that deals with abused and neglected children. But he and religious-right pressure groups insisted on trying to change the bill to promote discrimination against LGBT people who simply want to provide safe, loving homes for those children. That’s repugnant.
Yesterday’s actions on SB 206 came after legislative opponents used brilliant stalling tactics to keep another anti-LGBT discrimination bill from passing the House before a key deadline last Thursday. That bill, HB 4105 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, would have barred state and local officials from granting or recognizing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
The Texas Freedom Network and partner organizations — Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas and the Human Rights Campaign — have been working with supportive lawmakers throughout this legislative session to stop the right’s discrimination agenda. The more than 20 bills in that divisive, mean-spirited agenda would enshrine in state law discrimination against LGBT people and their families.
We will continue working hard to keep those bills from passing. And if it wasn’t clear before yesterday, it should be now: supporters of equality will use whatever tools are available to stop efforts to promote discrimination against people simply because of who they are and whom they love.