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 of this strategy are gaining traction and together are much worse than what we have seen elsewhere.”
Two such bills have already received the approval of House committees and await floor votes.
HB 4105 would bar public funding to license or recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples, even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that state bans on such unions are unconstitutional. As of Tuesday, at least 54 members of the Texas House had signed on as co-authors of the bill.
Another bill already approved in committee, HB 3864, would allow child welfare agencies and providers to discriminate against LGBT families for religious reasons. At least 20 other bills would also promote and even require discrimination against LGBT individuals as well as couples. All could advance as stand-alone bills or be tacked on as amendments to other legislation.
The strategy to pass bills that lock in discrimination against gay and transgender Texans could lead to months and even years of litigation, said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network.
“Dragging this battle out in lengthy litigation appears to be a central part of the strategy to stonewall equality,” Miller said. “That would impose great harm, financial and otherwise, on loving families simply trying to exercise their constitutionally protected rights.”
Texas lawmakers appear determined to make the same mistakes that brought severe business and public backlashes in other states, said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.
“Businesses have already made clear in Texas, as they did in Indiana and Arkansas, that they are wary of moving to states with a reputation as intolerant and unwelcoming,” Smith said. “Legislators should have Texas join the rest of the nation in embracing equality under the law for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network and Equality Texas have joined together in an initiative – TexansEqualUnderLaw.com/marriage_backlash – in opposition to the proposed discrimination bills.
ACLU of Texas is a guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, the Legislature and Texas communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, individual liberties and public schools. Equality Texas works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.