LGBT Texans, Faith Groups Turn Out for Emotional Debate on Religious Exemptions Bill

AUSTIN — Texas lawmakers waded back into the subject of LGBT rights on Monday, debating a bill they said would protect freedom of religion and gay rights groups likened to a state-sanctioned discrimination.Senate Bill 17 by Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would prohibit the state's occupational licensing boards from enacting rules or regulations that "burdens an applicant's or license holder's free exercise of religion," free speech "regarding a sincerely held religious belief" or membership in a religious organization. It would also give anyone licensed by the state, including lawyers and therapists, legal cover in the event their license is threatened because they refused service to someone based on their faith. After more than three hours of testimony, the vast majority of it from members of the public opposed to the bill, it passed the Senate State Affairs Committee by a vote of 7-1 and now heads to the full Senate for more debate. Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was the lone dissenting vote while Brownsville Democrat Eddie Lucio Sr., voted in favor.  Continue reading...

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