AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – In a 79-62 vote, the Texas House today passed Senate Bill 1978, best known as the #SaveChickFilA bill.
Earlier this month, The Texas Senate passed the bill that bans government entities from taking “adverse action” over an individual or organization’s affiliation to a religious organization.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter shortly after to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and city council members letting them know he is opening an investigation surrounding the city’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from a concession contract that city staff recommended.
According to Paxton, “The Council was in the process of approving a concessionaire agreement with Paradies Legadere (Paradies) to run concession facilities in the San Antonio airport. The Paradies proposal included a license that would bring Chick-fil-A to the airport.”
“The City of San Antonio’s decision to exclude a respected vendor based on the religious beliefs associated with that company and its owners is the opposite of tolerance,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The city’s discriminatory decision is not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law.”
By separate letter, he also requested Secretary Elaine Chao of the United States Department of Transportation open an investigation into “the city of San Antonio’s potential violation of federal law and Transportation Department regulations when the city banned Chick-fil-A from operating a restaurant in the San Antonio International Airport based on the company’s religious beliefs.”
Paxton cited comments from a city council meeting in the letter to Chao where he alleged discrimination. He said that when the council moved to approve the contract that would have allowed the restaurant at the airport, a council member instead moved to exclude and replace Chick-fil-A. Paxton said, “His [the council member’s] rationale was that Chick-fil-A has a ‘legacy of anti-LGBT behavior.’” Paxton said the Council member who seconded the motion referred to Chick-fil-A as a “symbol of hate.”
Democrats say the bill invites discrimination.
The bill as amended creates virtually no change in Texas law, and is wholly unnecessary, according to Equality Texas.
“Senate Bill 1978 has one aim only: to undermine LGBTQ equality and promote anti-LGBTQ messages. This bill is a ‘dog whistle’ to encourage discrimination against LGBTQ Texans, and advances messages that hurt the LGBTQ community,” said Samantha Smoot, Interim Executive Director of Equality Texas.“SB 1978 is part of an insidious, coordinated strategy to advance anti-LGBTQ messages and discriminatory public policies. It’s an outrage that the Texas Legislature is continuing to advance rhetoric that harms LGBTQ people, in defiance of public support for equal rights and violation of pledges made in January that there would be no attacks on the LGBTQ community this session.”
Smoot made a correlation between the message of SB 1978 and recent fatal shooting of a transgender woman, Muhlaysia Booker, who was at the center of a viral video where she was beaten near a Dallas apartment complex last month.
“These anti-LGBTQ messages create an environment that allows for dehumanization, discrimination, and ultimately violence against, LGBTQ people. There is a direct connection between discrimination-motivated initiatives like SB 1978 and the violence suffered by Muhlaysia Booker,” continued Smoot.
Republicans pressed quickly getting what they call new religious liberty protection on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. SB 1978 now moves to his desk, where he is expected to sign the bill into law.