Updated story, June 12: On Monday, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed SB 1978, the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill. The measure goes into effect Sept. 1.
Updated story, May 22: The Texas House voted Tuesday to advance the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill by a 79-64 margin, which will now head to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott. As to which way the Republican governor leans? Judging by a tweet from Abbott, its signing seems likely.
Original story, May 17: The debate around Chick-fil-A’s history of donations to organizations with anti-LGBT stances has escalated substantially over the last few months. From airport debates to stump speeches to protests zamboni-based and otherwise, the hugely successful fried chicken chain has become a cultural battleground and a political weapon alike.
A major inciting incident was San Antonio’s ban of the restaurant from its own airport, which led to Texas’ attorney general announcing an investigation of whether the ban was a First Amendment violation. You may recall the AG’s immortal line in the initial complaint: “The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken.”
Now, the Texas Senate has advanced what supporters refer to as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill (because the chain is really struggling these days). The Dallas Morning News reports that Senate Bill 1978 will move forward for House debate, on a 19-12 vote. The bill, authored by Senator Bryan Hughes, aims to “prevent any government entity from taking ‘adverse actions’ against an individual or business for their ‘membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation or other support to a religious organization.’”
Hughes, speaking after the Senate vote, remained firm in his intent after the vote: “I challenge anyone to find one word of discrimination in this bill. This bill clearly and simply provides that if you affiliate with or make a donation to a religious organization, you cannot be punished by your government... This protects everyone’s right to religious freedom.” However, opposition remains strong from Democrats; Sen. Borris Miles, in dispute of the bill, stated that “The bill does nothing but target the GLBT community... It sends the wrong message that Texas discriminates, plain and simple.”
House representatives will have only until May 27th, the end of the current session, to debate the bill. If approved by the House, the Republican-backed bill is likely to earn the support of Governor Greg Abbott.