AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — On Wednesday, dozens of ministers and faith leaders gathered outside the Texas House chamber to sing and pray for equality for all Texans.
The group also delivered letters signed by hundreds of faith leaders across the state, asking lawmakers to oppose the nearly two dozen active bills they say discriminates against the LGBT community in Texas.
“We are representing a different voice that stands up for a God who does not discriminate,” Rev. John Elford with the University United Methodist Church in Austin said, “and a God who is much more inclusive and much more loving than these bills are.”
Elford says lawmakers are using religion as an excuse to discriminate. He says legislation like House Bill 2899 and Senate Bill 6 bring harm to LBGT Texans. Both bills would regulate bathroom access – and primarily impact transgender Texans.
“Some of these bills are being presented as part of our religious freedom,” Elford said. “Religious freedom is an important right in the United States. It protects my freedom to worship, but it doesn’t allow me to opt out of laws that I don’t like or to do things that discriminate against people.”
Nicole Hudgens with Texas Values says passing laws like SB-6 and HB-2899 is the reasonable and responsible thing to do.
“These bills are about protecting privacy safety and dignity and protecting religious freedom,” Hudgens said. “I think that is something that everyone should be able to agree on because everyone deserves to have those rights.”
SB-6 would regulate bathroom use in schools, universities and government buildings based on the sex listed on birth certificates. It has passed the Senate but has yet to be assigned to a House committee.
HB-2899 would block cities and school districts from enacting or enforcing transgender-friendly restroom policies. It was not received a vote in the House State Affairs Committee.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on religious liberty. A draft of the order was leaked several months ago and the leaked version would provide legal protections for people to claim religious exemptions.
Thursday is also the National Day of Prayer.