The Texas legislature is moving forward with a proposed bill aimed at protecting businesses like Chick-fil-A from being discriminated against due to donations to religious groups that oppose homosexuality.
Texas Senate Bill 1978, commonly known as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, tentatively passed the state house on Monday in a vote of 79 ayes to 62 nays. It awaits a procedural House vote before being returned to the state Senate for a final vote.
Republican State Representative Matt Krause of Fort Worth, the House sponsor for the bill, said in a statement that the bill was aimed at protecting people who donated to socially conservative religious groups.
“What we want to make sure is if you donate to the Salvation Army, you won't be labeled as bigoted,” stated Rep. Krause, as reported by the Dallas Morning News.
Democratic State Representative Julie Johnson denounced the bill, saying she believed that if the legislation is passed it will face a lengthy legal challenge.
“The underlying message remains the same — and that message poisons this state. It sends the message that Texas is not open and welcoming to all,” stated Johnson, as reported by the Texas Tribune.
SB 1978 came in direct response to the San Antonio City Council’s recent decision to ban a Chick-fil-A restaurant from being part of an airport’s food court.
In March, the City Council voted 6-4 to remove Chick-fil-A from a concession agreement with San Antonio International Airport. At issue was Chick-fil-A’s connections to socially conservative nonprofits and its owner’s stated opposition to same-sex marriage.
Councilman Roberto Treviño, who championed the removal of Chick-fil-A from the agreement, celebrated the vote result as an example of San Antonio becoming “a champion of equality and inclusion.”
“San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior,” said Treviño, as reported by NBC News.
However, Councilman and mayoral candidate Greg Brockhouse penned an open letter of apology to Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy over the vote result.
“The recent actions of our City Council do not reflect the overwhelming belief in our City that you are a valued business and community partner,” wrote Brockhouse.
“In spite of the appearance of this decision, San Antonio is a welcoming City that values diversity, faith and inclusivity.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced in response to the outcry that he was investigating whether the City Council decision violated the First Amendment.
“The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken. Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport,” wrote Paxton in an official letter to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
“I have directed my office to open an investigation into whether the City’s action violates state law. I trust the City will fully cooperate with my investigation into this matter, and will abide by relevant federal and state laws in the future."