Texas State Senate Passes Cruel and Discriminatory Anti-LGBTQ Bill

by Nick Morrow

SB 17 would allow state-sanctioned discrimination in more than 200 professions which are licensed or regulated by the state.

HRC released the following statement about the Texas State Senate’s vote to pass SB 17. The third reading of SB 17 is expected tomorrow, a procedural step before it is sent to the House. This bill is one of Lt. Gov Dan Patrick’s legislative priorities, despite his assurance that he would not take up anti-LGBTQ legislation this legislative session.

“Today’s vote on SB 17 marks a dark moment for Texas: the passage of one of the most broadly discriminatory bills under consideration across the country,” said Rebecca Marques, HRC Texas state director. “This bill would allow state-sanctioned discrimination against many Texans, but would particularly impact the LGBTQ community. Before the session began, Texas’ elected officials promised to focus on key issues important to all Texans and not to revisit the fights of the previous session. Instead, it’s legislative deja vu, as Dan Patrick is pushing a discriminatory anti-LGBTQ agenda yet again. We implore the House of Representatives to not take up this harmful bill.”

SB 17, which now heads to the Texas State House, would forbid a professional licensing or regulatory agency from sanctioning, refusing to issue a license, or revoking the license of a practitioner who asserts a religious justification for failure to meet professional standards. In Texas, more than 200 professions require professional licensing so that consumers are assured that the professional has the requisite skills and training and will be held accountable to to professional standards. It applies to all licensees in Texas, including teachers, fire fighters, doctors, architects, funeral directors, building inspectors, social workers, counselors, psychologists, therapists, judges, veterinarians, pipefitters, auditors, surgeons, and so many more. The bill includes specific exemptions to ensure that neither police officers nor medical practitioners providing emergency medical care would be allowed to assert religious justifications for failing to provide those life-saving services.

Licenses to discriminate such as SB 17 have a particular impact on LGBTQ people because LGBTQ Texans are not included in the state’s non-discrimination laws. That means, for example, that if the local pediatrician refuses to care for the child of a same-sex couple, the state licensing agency wouldn’t be able to address the pediatrician’s unprofessional behavior -- even if the pediatrician is the only pediatrician in the family’s area.

This legislative session, at least 19 bills have been filed that threaten LGBTQ Texans.