Freedom Tastes like Chicken
2019 Legislative Session Overview – Extended Edition
As the dust has settled on the end of the Texas Legislative Session, and our resident policy team has gotten used to this glowing orb called the “sun” instead of walking endless hallways at the Texas Capitol, we wanted to provide a bit more in depth review of what happened during the 86th Legislative Session.
Even though the media and liberal activists declared that our greatest effort was dead with less than a month until Sine Dine (the day session ends), they were wrong. We are happy to report for the 4th Legislative Session in a row, Texas Values and Texas Values Action helped lead the effort to pass key religious freedom and pro-life legislation – legislation that Governor Greg Abbott has now signed into law! But first, let’s hop in our time machine and jump back to where this Session started in January.
New Speaker, New House, New Caucus
There was a new feeling to start this session, a feeling of optimism and renewed hope in representative government. We had a new Speaker of the House in Dennis Bonnen, and instantly saw a camaraderie between the big 3 (Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House) which had been missing for many years previously. Speaker Bonnen promised an open process but unfortunately, some key faith and family members lost re-election and weren’t returning to the chamber. We also saw the creation of a 5 member “LGBTQ Caucus” which promised to unveil a “transformative” agenda. It was an interesting session, to say the least. But thankfully, important pro-family policies still prevailed.
Ban the Bible Bills Banished
Following the promise of a transformative agenda from the LGBTQ Caucus (including freshman Rep. Julie Johnson), there were over a dozen “Ban the Bible” bills filed which sought to punish or criminalize Christians. These “Ban the Bible” bills tried to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) language into law and create a new special protected class. Many of these bills included criminal penalties, fines, and even possible jail time, for believing and living out Biblical views on marriage and sexuality. See more detail and extensive media coverage here.
Our team lobbied and provided legislative testimony against “Ban the Bible” bills including:
HB 244 by Rep. Jessica Farrar, a comprehensive style bill that would have forced “support” for gender identity, forced wedding vendors to use their artistic talents for ceremonies that violate their religious beliefs on marriage, forced government contractors to endorse beliefs that violate their religious views, and forced religious homeless shelters, colleges, and universities to allow biological men to sleep next to women, including in abuse shelters. If that wasn’t enough, the bill would have criminalized Christians with punishments including a Class A misdemeanor and an administrative penalty of $100 per day for a violation. Thankfully, the bill died in committee.
HB 850 by Rep. Eric Johnson (now Mayor of Dallas) which would have forced businesses to pay for same-sex benefits and allow men into women’s private facilities. The bill died in committee.
HB 978 by Rep. Michelle Beckley would have eliminated the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” and “wife” from the family code. The bill also would have deleted “father child relationship” in the context of birth certificates. Instead, the code would have read that “parent child relationship” may not be determined at birth. The bill died in committee.
HJR 64 by Rep. Michelle Beckley would have repealed the Texas Marriage Amendment which defines marriage as between one man and one woman in the Texas Constitution. Over 75% of Texans voted to implement the Texas Marriage Amendment. The bill died in committee.
Our team was ready to testify against HB 517 by Rep. Celia Israel which would have allowed the government to punish counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists and other mental health providers who work with minors from a Biblical perspective. If the providers in any way discourage homosexual behavior or the desire for a gender transition surgery- including at the request of the client- they would have faced disciplinary action by a regulatory committee. However, Committee Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson only allowed 4 people on both sides of the issue to testify. Thankfully, the bill still died in committee.
There were also LGBT amendments offered on both the House and Senate floors. Sen. Jose Menendez offered an amendment that would have put “Ban the Bible” language in SB 17, a religious freedom bill to protect occupational license holders. The amendment was voted down 18-13, but notably it did include Senator Kel Seliger voting for the bad “Ban The Bible” LGBT language, the only Republican to vote for this anti-freedom amendment.
Similarly, the LGBT Caucus offered an amendment that added “Ban the Bible” language to the Save Chick-fil-A bill, SB 1978. The amendment failed.
Thankfully, all of the LGBT priority “Ban the Bible” bills and floor amendments were defeated. This is a huge win and cannot be overstated. In their own words, the LGBTQ Caucus promised a “transformative” agenda, and it was stopped because of your action! Over 60,000 Texans successfully contacted their legislators, urging them to stop these bills. Click here to see us testifying against HB244, one of the Ban the Bible bills.
Religious Freedom – Tastes Like Chicken
Wow! What an honor it has been for the Texas Values Action team to lead the effort that resulted in the Save Chick Fil A bill (SB 1978) becoming law, from the beginning to the end! The Save Chick-fil-A religious freedom bill became a statewide and even national movement this session after the San Antonio City Council banned a location from their airport in March because of donations to the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. We took action immediately with a press release and a determination that there was legislative we were already working on that could stop the City of San Antonio on this issue. Make no mistake, it was a bumpy road to get this bill passed but we did get it done!
Because of the numerous examples of attacks on religious freedom across the country, including in Texas, Rep. Matt Krause and Sen. Bryan Hughes had already filed the First Amendment Defense Act, HB 3172/SB1978. These bills were modeled after Congressional legislation which prohibits the government from discriminating based on religious beliefs on marriage. This wasn’t the first time the bill was filed in Texas either. But after the incident in San Antonio, the bill quickly gained support and was tailored to address the city council’s discriminatory actions and stop incidents like it from happening again. Read the bill here.
Now, because of our messaging and the unconstitutional attack, the bill is known across the state, and nation, as the ‘Save Chick-fil-A’ bill and ensures the government cannot punish a person, deny a contract, revoke a tax status, or remove accreditation because of a donation, membership, or affiliation with a religious organization. In Texas law, a “religious organization” includes churches. SB 1978 also provides protections for individuals and private business owners. SB 1978 protects you from punishment from the government, including your ability to have a grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, loan, scholarship, license, registration, accreditation, or employment when a government entity is involved, including government schools and universities.
Texans who have small businesses, oversee schools, and engage in charity work should never be punished by the government for contributing to or associating with religious organizations. Nor can they afford it. SB 1978 makes this clear in state law.
Here’s How the Save Chick-fil-A Bill Became Law:
After an all-night committee hearing, the House version of the bill was finally moved to the House floor, where it was expected to pass. The newly formed LGBT Caucus, made up of 5 members, had other ideas though. They used a procedural move to kill HB3172 at the last minute.
Hope seemed lost as legislative deadlines passed. Keep in mind, the Texas Legislature only meets once every two years for 140 days, and it appeared the issue would not be solved until the next session.
As crucial days went by, the Senate resurrected the effort by passing their version of the Save Chick-fil-A bill, SB 1978. They passed the bill through committee and the Senate floor with bipartisan support. The Save Chick-fil-A bill once again made its way through the House committee, and was set up for another show down at high noon on the House floor.
This time, however, justice was served. SB 1978 was sent to the House and placed on the Major State Calendar (making it a priority calendar item). Rep. Krause laid out the bill again, the House voted, and the bill passed on a final vote of 79-64, just in time before more deadlines hit.
And if you’re were wondering if Gov. Abbott plans to sign the bill, he made his support clear on social media. And yes, he did sign SB 1978 into law! https://twitter.com/GregAbbott_TX/status/1130648204582760448
The Save Chick-fil-A bill is for all Texans, not just Chick-fil-A. It protects any person who donates to, or affiliates with or has membership in a religious organization from government discrimination. Not everyone has the market share or resources Chick-fil-A does, and facing a government ban could be a make or break moment for many small businesses. SB 1978 provides protections for individuals and private business owners. No one should have to fear state-sponsored attacks against them because of what they believe. The Save Chick-fil-A bill ensures, just like the First Amendment intended, that no one is discriminated against for associating or donating to a religious organization, including a church.
This was an all-hands-on-deck effort, and we want to give a special shout-out to our friends:
- First Liberty Institute
- Family Policy Alliance
- American Family Association
- the Republican Party of Texas Legislative Priorities Committee and Chairman James Dickey
- Concerned Women of America of Texas
- Texas Eagle Forum
- Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
- Texas Pastor Council
- Grassroots for America We the People
- San Antonio Family Association
- Stand for Fort Worth
- Fredericksburg Tea Party
- Texas Young Republicans
- Celebration Church
- Coming Out, Inc.
- NE Tarrant Tea Party
- Texas Republican Party of Bexar County
- Faith Outreach Center International
- Iglesia Cristiana Aposento Alto
- Laredo Prayer Task Force
- Texas Right To Know
- First Baptist Church Pflugerville.
- Great Hills Baptist Church
These groups and MANY other Texans who showed up, spoke out, and worked hard to ensure this bill crossed the finish line! Help us now educate people on the Save Chick Fil A religious freedom bill by sharing this website savechickfila.com
Multiple pro-life bills were filed in the legislature, and enthusiasm was high for passage. While not all of the pro-life legislation we supported passed, two key pieces did. We are excited to announce SB22 by Sen. Donna Campbell and Rep. Candy Noble, which protects taxpayers from funding Planned Parenthood, passed and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott! SB22 prohibits local governments from giving sweetheart deals to abortion providers from now on.
Texans saw the need for this bill when Austin gave Planned Parenthood rent in a government building for $1 a year for 20 years. That lease even includes an option to renew for another 20 years. $40 for 40 years of rent in prime Austin real estate? Thankfully, deals like this will be illegal moving forward. The bill also will stop school districts from purchasing sex-education curriculum from groups like Planned Parenthood. Discussions are already taking place in Austin ISD about the impacts of this bill.
HB16 by Rep. Jeff Leach and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, The Born Alive Infant Protect Act, also passed! HB 16 is a clear response to the horrible things we have seen coming from New York, and comments by the Governor of Virginia. Republicans in Congress have tried more than 50 times to get a vote on this exact piece of legislation. Texas has now passed it. A key moment was when Texas Values partnered with our dear friend and abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, to assist in her testifying in favor of HB 16. Gianna is a former court case client of Texas Values Action President Jonathan Saenz in previous years so we were so thankful when we are able to assist her in providing testimony in the Texas House Committee and on social media. Gianna’s testimony was a clear reminder to Texas that children do survive abortions and they deserve to be protected. Texas Values Action team members Nicole Hudgens, Jonathan Saenz and Mary Elizabeth Castle also testified in support of HB16.
HB 2271 by Rep. Mike Lang is a bill that now gives authority to the Attorney General to advertise for Choose Life account grants. Choose Life account grants provide resources for women choosing adoption. The grants are funded through the purchase of pro-life license plates. The bill has been sign by the Governor. This bill was supported by Texas Values Action.
SB 24 by Sen. Eddie Lucio ensures that women who are planning to have an abortion receive the Women’s Right to Know booklet, important information about the child they are carrying, “before any sedative or anesthesia is administered to the pregnant woman on the day of the abortion and at least two hours before the abortion if the woman lives 100 miles or more from the nearest abortion provider.” The bill has been signed by the Governor. This bill was supported by Texas Values Action.
Unfortunately, bills like SB1033/HB2434 by Sen. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Matt Schaefer (the Preborn Nondiscrimination Act), did not pass. This important legislation would have saved lives by stopping discriminatory abortions based on race, sex, or fetal abnormality. Our team testified in favor of these important bills in both the House and Senate committees.
Another bill that sadly did not receive traction was the Heartbeat bill, HB 1500 by Rep. Briscoe Cain. The bill prohibits abortions after detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat and would criminalize abortions made by doctors who have detected a heartbeat in an unborn child. The bill was referred to the Texas House Public Health Committee and was not granted a hearing. This bill was supported by Texas Values and Texas Values Action.
We will not give up the fight to advance strong, pro-life legislation in Texas. But make no mistake, Texas passing laws to further defund Planned Parenthood and drawing a line in the sand to protect children who survive abortions are still important wins.
There is Still Work to Be Done
Our fight for faith, family, and freedom is not over. It is important to realize that Texas still has work to do to advance pro-family issues. Each bill that is filed and advanced helps set a precedence for success in future sessions. Here are other pro-family bills that advanced this session that we supported, but did not cross the finish line (yet):
SB17 by Sen. Charles Perry and sponsored by Rep. Phil King protects the religious beliefs of occupation license holders. The bill made it through the Texas Senate.
HB1035 by Rep. Bill Zedler, the Free to Believe Act, is a comprehensive religious freedom bill that protects business owners, wedding vendors, counselors, medical providers, government employees and more. The bill was heard in the House State Affairs Committee.
SB 227 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt and HB 2302 by Rep. Greg Bonnen protects religious displays for homeowners. HB 2302 was placed on the House General Calendar but not heard on the House floor.
SB 85 by Sen. Bob Hall/ HB 4357 by Rep. Scott Sanford protects the religious freedom of counselors. The bill was filed in both the House and Senate but not heard in Committee.
HCR 126 by Rep. Valoree Swanson declares pornography as a public health crisis. The resolution recognizes the detrimental effects of pornography on health, safety, and relationships. The resolution also encourages education, prevention, research and policy changes to address the harmful influence and consequences of pornography. HCR 126 received a unanimous, bipartisan vote in the House Public Health Committee as well as bipartisan joint authorship and co-authorship but did not make it to the House floor.
SB 1009, by Sen. Brian Birdwell/HB 2109 by Rep. Dan Flynn protects religious freedom of those performing marriages. HB 2109 was heard in the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, but failed to receive an affirmative vote.
HB 948, by Rep. Will Metcalf Tax extended tax exemptions for land used for religious purposes. The bill was placed on the House General Calendar, but not heard on the floor.
The Fight Continues
Our team stands ready to continue to fight for faith, family, and freedom in Texas. The Texas Values Action team is already actively engaged in discussions and elections at the local level. We are also preparing for more policy discussions at the statewide level. We will be educating and activating Texans at our upcoming policy conference, and our Texas Values Action team will be releasing our scorecard soon. Attacks on pro-family values still continue across the country and at home in Texas, so we must remain vigilant. The sun has not set for Texas and we must continue to fight while it is still day. And the next time you order a Chick-fil-A sandwich, we hope you taste the freedom with every bite!