Last Wednesday, the Texas House Committee on State Affairs took testimony on House Bill 3567, filed by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney. After hearing the intentions of the bill’s author and supporters, TFN has joined with the ACLU of Texas and Equality Texas to reach out in good faith to find common ground on this bill.
All three organizations strongly believe that a simple change of only five words clarifies the rights of pastors and other religious leaders to not perform marriages that run counter to their faith — which is the stated intention of the bill’s supporters — while also eliminating potentially problematic unintended consequences.
Read the full text of the letter sent to Rep. Sanford and House State Affairs Committee members.
Testimony from the Public Hearing on HB 3567 submitted by Rebecca L. Robertson, ACLU of Texas Legal and Policy Director.
To the Texas House Committee on State Affairs:
I submit this testimony on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and its thousands of members and supporters around the state, to oppose HB 3567, which would give a broad array of religiously affiliated entities and actors an unprecedented right to refuse to recognize legal marriages in circumstances that have nothing to do with religious practice.
Clergy in Texas don’t have to perform a wedding for a same-sex couple if they don’t want to. That’s a right they already have. Legal protections are in place at the state and federal level that allow pastors and other faith leaders to opt out of such ceremonies.
So why are we even bring up the matter? Because a Texas state lawmaker came up with a solution -- House Bill 3567 -- for a problem that doesn’t exist. And the consequences of the legislation aren’t limited to wedding ceremonies.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the best protection of religion the world has ever seen. Because of its focus on the "free exercise of religion," it keeps government from championing a single kind of religious belief or practice. As a result, the United States is one of the most diverse and religiously vibrant nations on Earth. Our founders realized that to call on government to defend or establish one particular religious tradition necessarily means inhibiting the religious practice of another.
Read the full op-ed by Rev. Kelly S. Allen and Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Commentary-Texas-must-notfoist-religious-beliefs-6187303.php
Let me get straight to the point – David Brooks’ column this week encouraging gay and transgender people to simply accept discrimination for as long as it takes for society to come around was more than misguided. It undercuts core American values of fairness and equality and advances the idea that’s it is acceptable to treat some people like second-class citizens because of who they are.
Read the full blogpost by Louise Melling, Director, Center of Liberty; Deputy Legal Director, ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/why-david-brooks-wrong-about-discrimination-and-indianas-rfra
This attempt to impose personal religious beliefs on third parties is an extraordinary departure from the American ideal of religious liberty. In applying RFRAs, courts have traditionally rejected such claims of religious prerogative over the conduct of another, and we hope that the Fifth Circuit will follow suit here.
As Americans, religious liberty is our birthright. But our democracy, with its abundant religious diversity, thrives on the principle that the maximum freedom for all is achieved when none can use his liberty to abridge the rights of another. We risk undermining the very foundations of religious liberty when we attempt to wield it as a sword against our neighbors rather than as a shield against government overreach.
Read the full op-ed in the Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Robertson-Imposing-personal-beliefs-on-others-6175889.php
The events in Indiana over the last week represent a dramatic change in the way our country reacts to discrimination hiding under the guise of religion.
The Indiana legislature and the governor made a terrible and dangerous mistake, and they were met with widespread condemnation and a backlash that has hurt their state’s reputation and its economy.
Read the full statement at: https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-statement-proposed-amendments-indiana-rfra
On Monday state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said he would no longer support his HJR 55, a controversial state constitutional amendment that supporters claim protects religious freedom in Texas but in reality opens the door to using religion to discriminate and harm others. On Wednesday, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, refiled the measure as HJR 125.
HJR 55, HJR 125 and SJR 10 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would allow businesses, government officials and employees, and other individuals to ignore laws they claim offend their religious beliefs, including laws that bar discrimination against LGBT Texans and others.
Read the full blogpost in the TFN Insider: http://tfninsider.org/2015/03/13/texas-gop-legislator-matt-krause-decides-discrimination-is-more-important-than-jobs-for-texans/
More recently, Indiana and Arkansas have found themselves under the harsh glare of the public spotlight for adopting anti-LGBT legislation. Almost immediately, members of the business community committed to inclusion started to push back, canceling expansion plans and travel. The LGBT community and allies took to the streets and to social media, demonstrating that discrimination cloaked under the guise of faith was still discrimination.
Texas faces similar threats now, as anti-business bills have been filed in the legislature. One proposes to roll back the nondiscrimination ordinances that are in place in some Texas cities, including Dallas. Moving back in time will not serve any of us. As someone who came out as a young adult, post-college, just starting my “grown-up” life here in Dallas, I observed firsthand a city that grew to value its LGBT citizens and supporters. I know other Texans are capable of welcoming and nurturing all of us.
Read the full blogpost by CeCe Cox in the Dallas Morning News LGBTQ Insider: http://lgbtqblog.dallasnews.com/2015/03/anti-gay-is-anti-business.html/