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Memo to Media: Religious Liberty Protections in Texas
Posted on February 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Why do advocates of “religious freedom” think the term means the freedom to discriminate against LGBT people in child welfare services, and in public accommodations, and elsewhere? Is it only religious freedom for some?

Today, the Texas Senate held a hearing to consider new legislation that could create new laws to redefine religious freedoms to lawfully discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans and to roll back protections in cities across Texas.  Their real agenda is not to protect their long-held and cherished religious beliefs. Their efforts, if successful, are to allow individuals to use religion to discriminate against LGBT people. The current laws we have on the books in Texas, including Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) balance the rights of both LGBT citizens and religion.

If the rule of law is important, then we cannot create new sweeping religious exemptions that encourage people to pick and choose which laws they’re going to follow. No religion should be used to hurt people, to impose one’s beliefs on others, or to discriminate. Religious freedom laws aren’t just about florists refusing to sell flowers to same-sex couples. They are new rules, proposed at the taxpayer’s expense to legalize
discrimination against victims of violence, unmarried people, single mothers, religious minorities, and more.

Equality Texas believes that discrimination is not a Texas Value. Using the government to promote one religion over another potentially contributes to creating communities of intolerance. Freedom of religion is important; it’s part of what makes America great. That’s why it’s already protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Statement from Steve Rudner – Chairman of the Board of Equality Texas and father of three children from Dallas who testified before the Senate State Affairs Committee today:

“I have a lot of confusion in my mind as to who is the victim and who is the aggressor.  We are all God’s children created in his image. We have three children. One of my sons came out as gay. He is Jewish and I lose sleep every time he goes out in the Oak Lawn area that he is going to be beaten up because there have been a series of hate crimes in Dallas.

LGBT Texans today can be denied service, fired from their job, prevented from renting an apartment because of anti-gay discrimination. Texans are able to practice their religion every day. We are a welcoming open state and it would be cruel to deny service to anyone. It is unfair to say if you want to do business in Texas that my business ought to be free to discriminate against anyone. That is exactly the same argument that was used against African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. If you are in business, your business should be open to all. The idea that we would say as Texans that we will deny service to anyone will destroy the economy of this state.”

Mr. Rudner has played a major role in leading the statewide coalition Texas Competes. The Texas Competes pledge created an opportunity for business leaders to clarify their shared economic interests in fair treatment for gay and transgender people. The pro-business effort recently surpassed more than 500 companies and business organizations.

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