Chick-fil-A is delicious.
That’s not up for debate—what is is whether government should be able to impose its will on Texans because of their religious beliefs.
On Wednesday, the Texas Senate passed a bill expanding protections of Texans based on their religious beliefs from the powerful and often politically motivated hands of government that may seek to impose punitive actions in a discriminatory manner.
Senate Bill 1978 by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) is the companion bill to House Bill 3172 by State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth) that was defeated on procedural grounds by Democrat State Rep. Julie Johnson (Carrollton) in the House last week. Since then, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen told a reporter Wednesday that he is in favor of the bill and he believes it would pass in the House.
Hughes’ bill was only passed out of the Senate Committee on State Affairs. Only Laredo Democrat State Sen. Judith Zaffirini opposed the bill coming out of committee.
Much of the debate centered on Chick-fil-A, its foundation, and their contributions to organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army rather than the bill, its protections, or the role of government.
Hughes sparred with more than half of the Senate Democrat Caucus over the legislation, which was substantially weaker than it seemed when initially introduced.
After several Democrat attempts to amend the legislation, the bill ultimately passed to engrossment by a vote of 19-12. Republican State Sen. Kel Seliger (Amarillo) voted with Democrats against the bill; meanwhile, State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (Brownsville) crossed party lines to support the measure.
Texas Values, a major proponent of the legislation, issued this statement following the vote:
“This bipartisan Texas Senate vote on the Chick-fil-A bill was essential for religious freedom and government accountability. It’s late, but there is still enough time for this must-pass bill to get approval in the House and go to Gov. Abbott for his signature.”
The bill will need a third and final vote, expected to be held Thursday, before it heads back to the Texas House—where it will likely receive a cold welcome from House Democrats and members, like Johnson, of the newly formed House LGBT Caucus who have sworn to oppose it.
Democrats have long defended government authorities being able to discriminate against the rights protected by the United States and Texas constitutions. It should be expected that they will continue that legacy when SB 1978 arrives for the proposal’s second appearance.