We’re hearing that major companies with headquarters or a significant presence in Texas are starting to push back against a number of anti-LGBT discrimination bills nearing votes in the Texas Legislature this week. Most of it’s happening in private meetings, apparently. But earlier this afternoon, Pamela Colloff from Texas Monthly tweeted that oil and gas giant BP reached out to her about “the anti-discrimination debate playing out in the Texas statehouse.” The full BP statement wasn’t available in the tweet, but it says in part that “BP opposes discrimination of any kind.”
Times are changing. BP spokesperson in Houston just reached out to me to make sure I knew BP’s stance on LGBT rights. pic.twitter.com/bhPWyy4bdG
— Pamela Colloff (@pamelacolloff) May 12, 2015
We got this news around the same time we learned today that the Texas House could be voting Wednesday on a measure that would allow child welfare service providers that contract with the state to use religion to discriminate. Working with our coalition partners at the ACLU of Texas and Equality Texas, we sent out the following urgent memo to reporters:
LEGISLATION ALLOWING CHILD WELFARE SERVICE PROVIDERS TO USE RELIGION TO DISCRIMINATE FILED AS AMENDMENT TO SUNSET BILL
Family and Protective Services Sunset Bill Scheduled for House Vote on Wednesday
Yet another piece of legislation designed to allow discrimination against gay and transgender Texans could come to a vote on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives as early as Wednesday. State Rep. Sanford’s HB 3864, which would allow child welfare service providers to use religion to discriminate, has been filed as a proposed amendment to the sunset bill for the Department of Family and Protective Services. That sunset bill, HB 2433 by state Rep. Burkett, is on the House calendar for Wednesday, May 13.
If enacted into law, Rep. Sanford’s amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families seeking to provide loving homes for children who need them, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons. This would seriously weaken the state’s child welfare system by further shrinking the pool of qualified parents who can provide a safe, loving home for children.
Moreover, the amendment would expose minors to potential harm, even allowing child welfare service providers to force gay and transgender minors into abusive and discredited reparative “therapy” programs to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, the state would potentially have no recourse to act to protect such children from that harm.
Let’s be clear: this amendment puts a political agenda and personal beliefs ahead of the interests of children in the state’s welfare system, many of whom have come into that system because of abuse and neglect. Decisions about the placement of those children in safe, loving homes should be based on their needs and on the ability of families to meet those needs, not the religious or moral objections of the agencies with which the state has contracted to provide those services.
The move to amend Sanford’s bill onto HB 2433 comes in the same week that the Senate and House are considering other bills targeting LGBT Texans. HB 4105, which would bar public officials from granting or recognizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples even if the Supreme Court overturns the state’s ban on such unions, is set for a House vote as early as today. SB 2065, which deals with clergy performing marriage ceremonies, passed the Senate on third reading today. It’s companion bill, HB 3567, is set for a House vote as early as today.