UPDATE: The Senate State Affairs Committee has passed SB17 and sent it on to the full Senate. Use the form below to contact your state senator to tell them you oppose SB17.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick just launched his newest legislative assault on LGBT Texans. The Senate State Affairs Committee is set to consider a sweeping discrimination bill — SB 17 — at a public hearing on Monday (March 25). SB17 is one of at least 15 bills that would allow businesses, counselors, doctors and other licensed professionals — even government officials — to use their religious beliefs as a justification for discriminating against LGBT Texans.
Patrick’s all-out assault on equality won’t stop with SB17. But it’s clear that this bill is one of his priorities — and we need your help to stop it. Contact your senator and insist that he or she oppose SB17 and any other bill that turns religion into a license to discriminate against LGBT Texans — or anyone else.
The Senate State Affairs Committee’s public hearing on SB17 is at 9 a.m., Monday, in the Senate chamber. Read more about the many problems with the bill below. Then enter your information below to get the telephone number for your senator.
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More about SB17’s License to Discriminate
Religious freedom is one of our nation’s founding values. But it does not give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others, to exempt themselves from laws and rules everyone else must obey, and to turn religion into a license to discriminate. Yet SB17 grants a sweeping religious exemption that gives state-licensed professionals and potentially judges the right to do any of that. The bill excepts peace officers and medical services necessary to prevent death or imminent serious bodily injury. But it throws the door wide open to a raft of other potential abuses and harms. Even worse, by barring agencies from creating rules and imposing penalties to prevent such abuses, the state would be putting a formal stamp of approval on actions that harm LGBT Texans and virtually anyone else who doesn’t share the beliefs of a licensed professional who uses religion to discriminate.
Granting religious exemptions would undermine a key purpose of licensing requirements – assuring the public that a licensed professional is subject to universal standards and treats all clients or patients ethically, fairly and equally.
- A customer or patient would be put in the position of having to determine not just what qualifications a licensed professional has, but also whether they have used their religious beliefs to exempt themselves from any licensing requirements.
- A “sincerely held religious belief” is such a broad and unverifiable standard that a license holder or applicant could exempt themselves from virtually any requirement they simply don’t like.
- The bill would invite litigation from applicants and license holders who are subject to all licensing requirements while others who claim a religious exemption are not.
SB17 creates a license to discriminate against virtually anyone – but especially LGBT Texans – for religious reasons. A state licensing agency could be unable to act if, for example:
- The town pediatrician refuses to treat the child of a same-sex couple because the doctor believes same-sex marriage is wrong.
- A pharmacist refuses to dispense contraception to an unmarried woman because he or she believes sex outside of marriage is immoral.
- A family attorney refuses to work with clients who are in a same-sex marriage, have been previously divorced or are in an interfaith marriage because the attorney has religious objections.
- A code enforcement officer refuses to provide an inspection to a Jewish businessperson opening a kosher deli because they have religious objections to Judaism.
- A plumber refuses to repair a gas leak at the home of the single, unwed mother because he has religious objections to pregnancy outside of marriage.
SB17 would protect licensed professionals who choose to impose their religious beliefs on patients and clients. A state licensing agency could be unable to act if, for example:
- A doctor chooses to withhold from an unsuspecting patient information about all appropriate medical options because the physician has religious objections to some.
- A mental health counselor goes beyond their clinical role and attempts to evangelize or “convert” the faith or orientation of an LGBT child entrusted to their care.
- A hospital nurse chooses to deliver a religious lecture to an AIDS patient brought to the ER for care or an unmarried woman suffering complications from her pregnancy.
- Although not a licensing agency, under the bill’s provisions the State Commission on Judicial Conduct could be limited from taking action if a judge makes pronouncements or even judgments on the basis of his or her religious beliefs.