Under the guise of protecting the right of clergy not to perform marriages—a right that is already constitutionally guaranteed—HB 3567 would grant religious entities unfettered authority to discriminate in a broad range of situations that have nothing to do with religion.
A solution in search of a problem
HB 3567 isn’t necessary to protect religious liberty. Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value, amply protected by our Constitution. Here in Texas, we’re also protected by the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which forbids government to substantially burden a person’s free exercise of her faith.
Because of these and other legal protections, clergy and religious organizations already have the constitutional right to decide which marriages they will solemnize within their faith traditions. For example, although loving same-sex couples can now legally marry in 31 states, religious institutions in those states still have complete autonomy to decide whether to perform such marriages—or not—according their own beliefs.
Hidden consequences are far-reaching
Though supporters of HB 3567 claim that it simply protects clergy, this bill is not limited to ecclesiastical situations. It goes much further than current law by allowing religious organizations to pick and choose which lawful marriages they will recognize for “any purpose.” HB 3567 therefore permits discrimination in secular contexts, not just against same-sex couples, but also against interfaith couples, couples where one spouse previously divorced, and even interracial couples:
- A religiously affiliated adoption agency could refuse to place a child with an interfaith couple, regardless of the best interests of the child.
- A religious hospital could deny a legally married man the ability to make medical decisions for his spouse on the grounds that he was previously divorced.
- A faith-based social service organization that accepts tax dollars—like a homeless shelter or food bank—could decline to serve interracial families.
- A religious university could refuse to file federal tax forms for an employee in a legally recognized same-sex marriage.
One of our most important values is treating others the way we want to be treated, and as these examples make clear, creating new laws that go against that principle hurts us all.
Sanctioning LGBT discrimination is bad for Texas
We’ve already seen how singling out LGBT people for discrimination backfired in Indiana, Arizona, and Arkansas, making those states seem hostile and unwelcoming. Texas mustn’t make the same mistake. Passing HB 3567 would give Texas a reputation for intolerance, signaling to businesses considering relocation that their LGBT employees and customers aren’t valued. Tourists might avoid our state for fear that they or their families would not be welcomed or would face discrimination if they need hospital care of other services. If it wants to be competitive, Texas can’t afford HB 3657.