Religious Freedom: Texas Passes “Save Chick-Fil-A” Bill

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AUSTIN, Texas (CBS/AP) — Texas lawmakers have passed a controversial bill nicknamed “Save Chick-fil-A.” It prevents the government from taking negative action against individuals or businesses based on membership, support or donations to religious groups.

The nickname comes after the fast food chain lost a food contract over criticism for donating to charities that oppose gay marriage.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled he will sign legislation that Republicans say is a defense of Chick-fil-A and religious freedom, but gay lawmakers sometimes tearfully railed against it on the House floor as a license to discriminate.

The bill, given final approval Tuesday in the Texas House, was fast-tracked in the GOP-controlled Legislature in response to the San Antonio City Council stopping Chick-fil-A from opening a location in the airport of the nation’s seventh-largest city.

Some council members said they were taking a stand over the fast-food company’s values: Chick-fil-A’s owners have donated to anti-LGBT causes, and councilmember Roberto Trevino said in March that the city does “not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

But 80 miles north in the Texas Capitol, Republicans swiftly responded with a bill that would prohibit cities from taking “adverse action” against an individual based on contributions to religious organizations. Opponents slammed the measure, which is likely to reach Abbott’s desk before the legislative session ends Monday, as duplicating existing religious freedom protection and said it would only stoke discrimination against the LGBT community.

The bill reignited battles over divisive social issues that Texas Republicans have largely sought to avoid after an unusually rough election year for them in 2018. Two years ago, the Legislature was upended by a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people, and LGBT lawmakers said during emotional floor speeches Monday that they’ve had enough.

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“I’m tired of this,” Democratic state Rep. Celia Israel, who spoke at length about the impact of such measures on LGBT youth. “It’s been cloaked in religious freedom but the genesis and the nexus of this bill is in hatred.”

Republicans pushed back, saying the bill contained no discriminatory language. Abbott teased in a tweet that he would sign the legislation.

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