The Texas House passed an amendment Wednesday afternoon that would allow student clubs at universities to discriminate against people for membership.
The motion passed 78-67 after a motion to table it failed.
Fort Worth Republican Rep. Matt Krause’s amendment mandates that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board work with institutions to “ensure that each institution does not implement a policy or otherwise engage in a practice that requires a student organization” to accept members who “demonstrate opposition to the organization’s stated beliefs and purposes.”
Krause tacked it onto SB 215 and argued the amendment was about “protecting free speech” in deciding who can join a club. Others said it wasn’t appropriate to decide for universities how organizations on campuses should be handled and called it discriminatory.
Krause originally filed the amendment as HB 360, which didn’t make it before the House floor for a vote. That bill originally stated clubs could discriminate based on race, gender and sexual orientation. A compromise bill later passed out of committee preventing clubs form having to abide by universities’ nondiscrimination polices.
According to Equality Texas, if enacted, Krause’s amendment “would allow officially-recognized student organizations who receive taxpayer funded support from a university to discriminate against a potential member based on race, religion, veteran status, HIV/AIDS status, gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression if any attribute of the student ‘demonstrates opposition to the organization’s stated beliefs and purposes.’”
State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, said during today’s debate that the amendment is discriminatory and takes away freedom from students to join whatever club they wanted to.
“You don’t lose your freedom a mile at a time. You lose it an inch at a time,” Dutton said. “This is another attempt to take away some of the freedoms we have.”
Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas, said the amendment “barely squeezed through” and had bipartisan opposition. He said the amendment can still be dropped from the legislation as a committee creates a compromise bill that combines the Senate and House version. That bill then goes to another vote.
“There are still many steps left in the process and we will continue to work with our allies in the House and Senate,” he said. “I am very hopeful that this amendment will not become law.”
To see how House members voted on Krause’s amendment, go here.