Even as the U.S. Supreme Court considers arguments that could lead to a historic ruling on the freedom to marry, it has become increasingly clear that Texas lawmakers are engaged in an aggressive strategy to lock in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. If that strategy is successful in the Lone Star State, we’ll almost certainly see it used in other states across the country. The Texas Freedom Network today joined with the ACLU of Texas and Equality Texas in sending out the following press release:

Civil liberties groups warned today that Texas lawmakers are leading the way on a strategy to subvert a potential Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage and enshrine discrimination against gay and transgender people in state law.

Bills now moving in the Texas Legislature go far beyond discriminatory bills that sparked uproar recently in Indiana and Arkansas, said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas.

“Under the guise of protecting religious liberty, Texas lawmakers are pioneering an aggressive strategy for preserving the right to discriminate against gay and transgender families no matter what the Supreme Court says about marriage,” Burke said. “The bills that are the foundation… Read More

Last Wednesday, the Texas House Committee on State Affairs took testimony on House Bill 3567, filed by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney. After hearing the intentions of the bill’s author and supporters, TFN has joined with the ACLU of Texas and Equality Texas to reach out in good faith to find common ground on this bill.

All three organizations strongly believe that a simple change of only five words clarifies the rights of pastors and other religious leaders to not perform marriages that run counter to their faith — which is the stated intention of the bill’s supporters — while also eliminating potentially problematic unintended consequences.

The full text of the letter we sent to Rep. Sanford and House State Affairs Committee members appears below.

Chairman Cook and Rep. Sanford:

We believe protecting clergy from having to perform marriages that don’t conform to the tenets of their faith is an important religious-freedom issue that all of us can agree on. However, we have concerns that the current text of HB 3567 could have unintended consequences that extend beyond the bill’s purpose. Below is a suggested revision, which adds only a few words to the original text… Read More

The following is a statement from Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller following today’s approval of HB 4105 by the Texas House State Affairs Committee. HB 4105 is designed to subvert a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. It would bar public funding for, and bar state and local officials from, licensing or recognizing same-sex marriages in any way, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Miller said:

“No one should be fooled into thinking that Texas isn’t constitutionally bound by rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court. Rulings decades ago striking down school segregation and the ban on interracial marriage should be evidence enough. So this bill really represents a legislative temper tantrum that would lead to costly lawsuits the state would almost certainly lose. And it would thrill people in Indiana who could finally point to another state as the poster child for passing laws that discriminate against people because of who they are and whom they love.”… Read More

Today the Texas Freedom Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas are announcing a joint initiative — Texans Equal Under the Law — to oppose laws that allow people and organizations to use religion to discriminate. This announcement comes as the Texas House Committee on State Affairs considers yet another proposed bill that turns the principle of religious freedom on its head by allowing faith to be used a weapon to harm people. We just sent out the following press release about that bill and Texans Equal Under the Law:

A bill under consideration in the Texas House State Affairs Committee today would give religiously affiliated entities like hospitals and child welfare organizations authority to discriminate against almost any Texas family, two of the state’s leading religious liberties organizations warn.

“This is yet another example of an ill-conceived bill that pretends to protect religious freedom but in truth opens the doors to real harm,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. “And it invites to Texas the same uproar and condemnation we’ve seen with similar bills in Indiana and other states.”

Supporters portray House Bill 3567 by state… Read More

For another indication of just how much the paranoid, right-wing political fringe has become embedded in Texas government, check out what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Grassroots Advisory Board” is up to. Today the panel of Tea Party activists released a letter criticizing Gov. Greg Abbott’s plans to expand pre-K programs in the state. Those programs, the advisory board insists, will undermine parental rights and put children into “a Godless environment” that promotes socialism.

Yeah, that’s right. Tea Party activists who advise the Republican lieutenant governor are accusing the Republican governor of trying to lead Texas kids into Godless socialism. This is whack-a-loon territory.

The governor’s plan, outlined in House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 801, call for more funding and better quality standards for pre-K programs that school districts choose to offer. Lt. Gov. Patrick’s Tea Party advisors see the bills as a step toward universal pre-K education for all Texas kids. (TFN takes no position on these bills. Pre-K isn’t one of the issues that we focus on. But we do monitor what the right-wing fringe is up to, and they really don’t like pre-K.)

You can read the full letter from the lieutenant governor’s advisory committee here. Some choice excerpts:

“(W)e are experimenting at great… Read More