The Texas legislature only meets every other year. So, with the last day of session rapidly approaching, the past few days—yes, even including the weekend—have been wild. And the result: a lot of harmful policies are closer to becoming law. Here we're concentrating on HB 3859, a bill that sanctions discrimination in the name of religion, but you can read about bills that promote private school vouchers and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment on AU's Wall of Separation blog.
This week, the Senate gave final approval to a bill that would allow taxpayer-funded child welfare service providers to use religion to justify treating families unfairly and ignoring the best interests of children. Religious freedom guarantees us the right to believe or not as we see fit. But it does not give taxpayer-funded service providers the right to refuse to place a child with an otherwise qualified same-sex married couple or with her grandparents because they are Jewish; to provide family support services to a child and his family because his father had been previously divorced or to provide access to reproductive healthcare to a teen in foster care who has been sexually abused. (If you live in Texas, take action now and urge Gov. Greg Abbott to veto this discriminatory bill.)
That's not all. As part of what folks called Discrimination Sunday, the House tacked on a provision to an unrelated school bill that would sanction discrimination against transgender school children. The Senate is expected to approve the measure this week. In addition, the Texas House amended and passed SB 8, banning the most common abortion procedure used for miscarriages and abortion care after 13 weeks of pregnancy on top of the host of abortion restrictions already in the bill. The bill goes back to the Senate for final approval.
The Texas legislature managed to do an awful lot of bad things in just a few days. But we should all watch out because there’s time to do more—the legislature adjourns next Monday.