In Texas, LGBT people don’t share the same equal protections under the law as the majority of people in the state. In fact, not only are LGBT people not legally able to marry or adopt children, but they can also be fired or denied employment on the basis of their orientation or identity — all in accordance with the law. Not satisfied with all this, Texas state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) wants to instill an amendment to the Texas Constitution for a right to further discriminate against LGBT people, this based on her warped understanding of religious freedom.
The resolution was introduced earlier this week as a measure for the “right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief,” effectively allowing any organization, business group, or individual to discriminate against LGBT people disguised as freedom of religion. The amendment would further augment religious protections in the Texas Constitution, potentially undermining non-discrimination ordinances already in place in numerous cities across Texas. I use the word religious here loosely because not all religious groups or people of faith are anti-LGBT or support this measure.
Yet there is no denying Campbell’s anti-LGBT record in office.
Campbell filed the same resolution last legislative session, adamantly fighting both Democrat and Republican opposition. Why might conservatives oppose such a measure? Because the language of the resolution is too broad and touches a wide range of other issues — including “abortion rights, the Westboro Baptist Church, and goat slaughter.”
Campbell’s opposition included Joe Pojman, the executive director of the anti-choice group Texas Alliance for Life. The Texas Monthly shared this interesting exchange last session between Campbell and Pojman:
- “We do not oppose the concept of a religious freedom amendment,” testified Pojman. “Rather, we are concerned that a future court could misconstrue the expansive language … our concern is that abortion will become a religious right.”
“You know I’m on the side of life, but this bill isn’t about abortion, it’s about religious freedom,” replied Campbell. “Now, granted, I don’t know about the Santeria priest, but we aren’t talking goats here … I’m unfamiliar with any religious doctrine that supports the right to abortion.”
“Senator, it only needs to be a ‘sincerely held belief’ that a person has a right to abortion, and that’s why we recommend that you put abortion neutralizing language in the bill,” argued Pojman.
State Senators Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) also expressed their concerns of the broad language of the resolution and the legal implications of it being introduced to the Texas Constitution as an amendment. Many others argued against the redundancy of the law, as legal protections for religious freedom are plentiful in Texas, as well as the U.S. Constitution.
Campbell was unfazed by her opponents. Ultimately, her measure failed to get anywhere and was left pending in committee.
This upcoming session, however, might be Campbell’s best chance to pass such a resolution.
A wave of Tea Party candidates will be soon sworn to serve at the Capitol — completely changing the governing environment of the Texas Legislature. This is especially true for the Texas Senate. Campbell will soon be joined by other Tea Party members on the Senate floor, increasing the potential support and chances of her passing such a measure. Last year, Campbell was joined by Attorney General-elect Ken Paxton and Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston).
Leading this pack of Tea Party misfits is Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick this session. While Patrick made immigration the central focus of his campaign for lieutenant governor, it is very unlikely Patrick would pass on an opportunity to impose his discriminatory beliefs on the LGBT community. Numerous moderate Republicans that might have opposed such resolution were also removed from office by Tea Party opponents in the Texas House.
Since the measure is a resolution, it would have to be first approved by voters if it is to be incorporated to the Texas Constitution. At the end, it might be up to Texas voters to decide if they wish to legalize discrimination against LGBT people. Based on the latest poll results by Equality Texas concerning Texans’ evolving views on LGBT rights, Campbell’s opponents this time around may not just be Democrats and Republicans — but also the majority of Texas voters.
Follow Omar on Twitter at @AraizaTX.