Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has advanced two bills in the Senate that would allow professionals who provide health and counseling services to discriminate based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The first bill, SB 444, which was introduced by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), applies to anyone holding or applying for a professional license. The second bill, SB 85, which was introduced by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), applies to licensed counselors.
Both bills allow for discrimination based on the professional’s religious beliefs. However, the Perry bill makes one exception, saying that health care providers cannot refuse life-saving care.
Patrick has referred both bills to committee, moving them closer to a committee hearing and a vote.
In a February 15 email alert, Equality Texas offers scenarios of what the passage of these bills could mean for the LGBTQ community:
- A sonographer could refuse to carry out a sonogram if an expectant mother and her wife were together at their appointment.
- Marriage and family therapists could refuse service to a same-sex couple, or a family seeking support for their LGBTQ teen.
- If a physician cites a religious objection to providing treatment, the Texas medical board might not be able to discipline them for failing to “practice medicine in an acceptable professional manner consistent with public health and welfare” as required by the Texas Medical Act.
While these bills are clearly meant to affect the LGBT community, Equality Texas emphasizes that they could also have a negative impact on other communities, “providing legal defense for people wanting to cite a ‘sincerely held religious belief’ to refuse services based on a person’s religion, marital status, divorce history, or use of birth control.”