With the signing of SB 4 the “Sanctuary City” bill into law by Governor Greg Abbott in Texas over a week ago, we are facing a string of anti-LGBTQ and Religious Exemption bills passing the Texas Senate this week.
After passing the Texas House, HB 3859 was sent to the Senate where it had it’s first reading on May 11th and then was sent to the Health and Human Services committee. If this bill passes in the Senate it will be the first religious exemption bill to pass in Texas allowing discrimination and could restrict adoption and fostering opportunities for LGBTQ people, single men and women, or non-Christian parents, and could allow child welfare services to send foster children to anti-gay “conversion therapy”. You can read more about HB 3859 in my previous article from May 12th (link).
Here’s what we are watching for this week. HB 2899 that passed the House is now sitting in Senate. Nothing has happened with HB 2899 in the Senate as of now however it can be added as an amendment or “piggybacked” to another bill that will pass and be signed into law. If this happens this will allow the state of Texas to override any pre-existing city ordinances that protect the LGBTQ community and would keep transgender men and women from going to the restroom that matches their gender identity. El Paso, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin would no longer be able to protect their LGBTQ citizens. This would also apply to any tourists or visitors for conventions, college and professional athletic events and tourists visiting Texas. This is nothing but open and blatant discrimination. Why would anybody want to hold any national conventions or NCAA sporting events in Texas much less visit for vacation?
But last night on KXAN News Austin, there was yet another update on current bill under consideration in Texas legislation now in the senate. HB 2950 is a “pharmacy sunset bill” and it is very possible that an amendment will be added which would allow pharmacists to refuse filling prescriptions based on their religious beliefs.
The amendment allows “free exercise of religion, regardless of whether the burden is the result of a rule generally applicable to all license holders or registrants, as applicable.” (link)
This would it make it possible for pharmacists to choose not to fill birth control prescribed for women by their physicians, if the pharmacist does not believe in birth control medication due to religious beliefs. It also would allow pharmacists to turn away HIV/AIDS patients, not filling their life saving medications or people with Hepatitis C based on a pharmacist making a personal judgement on that person and how they contracted the disease. Again, everyone needs to remember that a pharmacist could also turn away a Muslim because of the difference in their religious beliefs or a Jewish person.
Should the Texas senate and House pass this bill it is yet one more in a series of religious exemption bills. This would make Texas the most bigoted and racist state in the nation based on religion.
Voters in Texas who oppose this type of blatant discrimination MUST watch how their state representatives and senators vote on these bills. When the bigots come up for election, we must go the polls and vote them out of office. We cannot allow these extremists to continue to get elected. Remember Senator Ted Cruz is up for re-election in 2018. We must all work to replace him with Representative Beto O’Rourke or whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee.