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Dallas CVB, Other Groups Oppose Bill That Would Discriminate Based on Religious Beliefs

29 May, 2019

By: Michael Popke

Texas is back in the news with another controversial bill. After failing to pass a so-called “bathroom bill” in 2017 that would have required transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate — not the one they feel most comfortable using — state lawmakers now want to allow certain licensed practitioners to refuse service to people based on their own religious beliefs.

Senate Bill 17, introduced by Lubbock Republican Charles Perry “would prohibit the state’s occupational licensing boards from enacting rules or regulations that burden ’an applicant’s or license holder’s free exercise of religion,’ free speech ‘regarding a sincerely held religious belief’ or membership in a religious organization,” according to DallasNews.com. “It would also give anyone licensed by the state, including lawyers and therapists, legal cover in the event their license is threatened because of actions they took based on their faith.”

“Living our faith does not stop when we start to work,” Perry told Austin’s Statesman.com. “When we see what we may perceive as immoralities, those people who hold those beliefs should be able to defend their faith… without fear of losing their livelihood and their license.”

If the bill passes, opponents are concerned that doctors would be allowed to refuse to attend to LGBTQ patients — which could cost the state billions of dollars, warn convention and visitor bureau officials, tech companies and LGBTQ advocates.

In fact, a large number of conventions would, or would consider, relocating their event from the state if the bill or a similar one becomes law. One of those, the LavaCon Conference, designated for online content professionals, is slated for Austin in 2021 and 2023 – and that group has added special wording to its contract to allow it to move in such a case.

Here is the exact wording of that clause:

LavaCon does not discriminate against attendees based on race, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of origin, etc. and refuses to do business in states that do. Group reserves the right to cancel this contract without liability should the city of Austin or the state of Texas pass any laws that are discriminatory based on race, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of origin or any other such personal attribute.

“Love does not withhold care for those in need because of a difference in belief,” said the Rev. William Knight of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Antonio, one of about 60 people testifying at a recent Senate committee hearing.

As of late April,no date had been set in the Texas House for a vote on SB 17.

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