The Texas Senate, which has already approved Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ridiculous and discriminatory bathroom bill — SB 6 — today (Tuesday April 11) approved, on second reading, SB 522, which would allow Texas county clerks and other public officials and employees the right not to issue a marriage license or conduct, as part of their official civil responsibilities, a marriage ceremony to which they have religious objections.
The bill, introduced by Granbury Republican Brian Birdwell, still must pass the Senate on third reading before being sent to the House.
While the bill was obviously intended to let right-wing county clerks and other right-wing public officials defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling on marriage equality, as the Texas Freedom Network pointed out last month, the measure “would allow public officials to discriminate against virtually anyone.”
Today, TFN President Kathy Miller issued this statement after the Senate vote:
“The Senate under Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s leadership has clearly become the center of intolerance and discrimination in Texas government. … [The Senate] today said it has no problem with public officials picking and choosing which taxpayers they will serve. This bill opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination against virtually anyone who doesn’t meet a public official’s personal moral standards. That means same-sex couples, divorced people, women who have children outside of marriage and many others could be treated like second-class citizens by the very people whose salaries they pay with their tax dollars. That’s discrimination, not religious freedom.”
Miller noted there are 17 so-called “religious refusal” bills that have been filed in this legislative session.
Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, issued this statement:
“Religious liberty is an organizing principle of American democracy and the birthright of every Texan. Our constitution and state laws already protect that right. Redefining religious liberty will allow people to take advantage and claim that their religion gives them the right to ignore existing laws or not perform the duties of their job. SB 522 promotes taxpayer-funded discrimination and would allow for unequal treatment under the law. In the end, this is not about religious liberty; it’s about discrimination. A clerk or government official should not be exempted from their duties simply because they do not share another person’s religious belief.”
Today’s vote was 21-10. I haven’t found a breakdown yet telling who voted how, but at least one Democrat voted for the bill.