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Senate Bill 1978, filed by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, was approved 19-12 after three hours of debate Wednesday night, the Dallas Morning News reported. The bill — which would ban the government from taking an “adverse action” on individuals or businesses based on their religious beliefs or moral conviction — now faces another hurdle of getting passed in the state Senate a second time on Thursday before being sent to the Texas House.
The House will have to approve the bill by Tuesday.
The measure, dubbed “Save Chick-fil-A” bill to reflect its killed companion House Bill 3172, was drafted after the fast food chain was barred from opening a location in the San Antonio airport in March. The city council cited the company’s “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior” as its reason.
After House Bill 3172 was effectively killed last week, Hughes kickstarted his proposal in the state Senate on Monday by presenting it during a meeting with the Senate Committee on State Affairs at the last minute.
Hughes said the proposed legislation would ensure “religious beliefs are protected from discrimination.”
“It's about the First Amendment and freedom of speech, freedom of religion — those uniquely American rights," Hughes said during Monday’s hearing, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Opponents voiced concerns Wednesday that the bill would give people and businesses the power to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
"These are the groups that we worry about getting protection in your bill. These are the people," said Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said in reference to groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, which been known to project anti-gay rhetoric.
Hughes, however, argued his bill is a “legitimate approach to defending First Amendment speech.”