Demonstrators protest proposed Texas ‘religious freedom’ bills

(Paul Shelton / KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — At the steps of the State Capitol Saturday night, a protest was held against a proposed Texas state amendment similar to the new Indiana law that some believe pits religious rights against the rights of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

The proposed Texas amendment, called  “the conscientious objector bill”, would give a business the ability to defend themselves in court if, for example, they do not want to cater a same sex wedding on religious grounds. But those in the LGBT community believe that could lead to discrimination.

“The bill really turns back the clock on progress we’re already seeing in Texas and throughout the country with gay rights,” rally organizer Daniel Segura said.

A federal law signed during the Clinton years protected some religious liberties but was not controversial at the time. Some say a new law in Indiana, and one proposed in Arkansas, like the Texas amendment, would go further. It has stirred up anger in the gay-lesbian world, and a lot of businesses are worried they could face a backlash like Indiana is experiencing.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler told rally attendees the city is thriving because it is considered all-inclusive, “Apple is here, Google is here, because the people who work for them want to live here,” Adler said. “And they want to live here because of the kind of community we are, because of the people we have in Austin.”

There have been no public hearings on the proposed Texas state amendment, which is a requirement for it to move forward. Many observers believe it has little chance of passage in light of the ongoing furor. This week, KXAN political reporter Phil Prazan spoke with Rep. Cecil Bell, the amendment’s co-author.

“That gets citizens in my district concerned that if that is the outcome here, we want to be in a position where we have a defense against those kind of over-reach,” Bell said.

If the amendment passes the House and Senate and the Governor signs it, voters must still approve the amendment for it to appear in the state constitution.

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