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Two New Bills Coming Up In the Texas Legislature Threaten LGBTQ Rights

SB 15 and SB 17 would permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (Associated Press)

The deadline for filing bills in the Texas legislature was last Friday and, surprising no one, a number of bills aimed at the LGBTQ community were among them. Two of them are of special note, SB 15 and SB 17, the latter of which has just been flagged for priority status by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

SB 15 could be taken up as early as Monday, March 18. This pre-emption bill targets local paid sick leave ordinances passed out of the Senate State Affairs committee after language was taken out that would have protected municipal Non Discrimination ordinances, or NDOs, such as those in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, and Plano.

While the bill’s author said that his intention wasn’t to compromise NDOs, anti-LBGTQ activists such asPastor Dave Welch support SB 15. Welch told the Texas Observer that the bill is “an avenue to curb how cities are able to dictate employment protections for LGBTQ people.”

Legal analysis from academia and from legal teams of the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign say the new language would seriously compromise cities’ abilities to enforce non-discrimination protections.

So get on the phone now and call your senator to oppose SB 15.

The bill that’s being fast-tracked, however, is SB 17, which is basically a revamped version of the old SB 444. This little monster would craft “religious exemptions” for almost every licensed occupation in Texas, meaning hundreds of professions, from your manicurist to your tow truck driver to your doctor.

A “sincerely held religious belief” is all it takes to be able to take discriminatory action and the licensing agency that oversees the occupation would have no recourse against such discrimination. Equality Texas believes the bill will invite discrimination against people who are simply not Christians or the “right kind” of Christians, like divorced people, people who use birth control, and a whole host of other subjective targets.

Contact your senator about this bill especially if they serve on the Senate State Affairs Committee.

There are 14 other anti-LGBTQ bills, each one on the Equality Texas “bad bill” list. You can see those bills on the Equality Texas website.

To find your senator, go here.

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Steven Foster

Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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