The Texas Association of Business and state Democrats stood side-by-side yesterday to declare that proposed amendments to the state’s constitution that resemble Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act would “devastate economic development” in the state, The Texas Tribune‘s Edgar Walters reported.
There are two proposed amendments, one in the state House and another in the Senate. Republican Representative Matt Krause’s House bill, HJR 125, would prohibit “the state…or any political subdivision of the state [from] burdening in any way a person’s free exercise of religion,” and places a similar prohibition on homeowners’ associations.
The Senate bill sponsored by Donna Campbell (R), SJR 10, contains similar language, but goes one step further by defining “burden” as potentially being both direct and indirect, with the latter including “withholding benefits, assessing penalties, and denying access to facilities or programs.”
Krause said his House bill — which would require voter approval — is necessary because religious liberty is “the bedrock of what Texas, and even America, was founded on.”
“I’ve yet to talk to somebody who thinks the protection of religious liberty is a bad idea,” he added, telling KVUE that there has not been “one instance in the last 16 years where [the state’s current religious freedom law] hurt business.”
He did, however, acknowledge that his amendment “could” lead to discrimination, but insisted that it probably wouldn’t.
“The onus would be on the cake bakers to show how their sincerely-held religious belief has been burdened or substantially burdened, and then the government would have to show a compelling state interest of why they should have to do that,” he said. “A lot of people are saying this is a license to discriminate, people are just going to quit serving gay individuals or gay couples. I’m not aware of one business that says, ‘We don’t serve gay couples.'”
Business leaders, however, do believe that de facto approval of discrimination by the state tells the rest of the country that “Texas is not a friendship state.” Passage of either amendment, Texas Association of Business’ chief executive Bill Hammond added, “would devastate economic development, tourism, and the convention business.”
“I think you’re seeing support in general evaporate based on the situation in Indiana. One has to look no further than Indiana to realize what a detriment this would be, and how hard it would be to sell Texas to the rest of the country. The Super Bowl, the Final Four, all those things would be at risk in Texas if this were to become part of our Constitution,” he continued.
The Association’s president, Chris Wallace, concurred, saying that “business owners are going to have to be enforcers of this legislation, and we certainly do not want to place any more burdens on business than there already are.”
Wallace also noted that some of state’s largest employers, including American Airlines and Apple, have already made their vehement objections to such legislation known.
State Representative Rafael Anchia (D) explained that many of the Fortune 100 companies in his district already have LGBT protections in place, and would be opposed to the state issuing “a license to discriminate against the LGBT community.”
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