Texas Is Considering the ‘Save Chick-Fil-A’ Bill—So What Exactly Is It?

Chick-fil-A, frequently found at the intersection of Very Tasty and Controversy, is once again in the news for reasons other than its uncommonly good fried chicken. The Texas House of Representatives has passed what they’re calling the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill. It’s a bit complicated, but here’s what’s going down.

It started in San Antonio, where the City Council approved new concessions for the San Antonio International Airport on the condition that Chick-fil-A not be included, citing hefty donations Chick-Fil-A has made to groups with anti-LGBT records. Shortly thereafter, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxto announced an investigation into whether the move violated “Chick-fil-A’s religious liberty.”

In the meantime, Republican Senator Bryan Hughes authored Senate Bill 1978, which would prohibit the government from taking action against people or businesses based on membership, support or donations to any religious group. The initial version of the bill would have allowed the Texas attorney general to take action against government entities that refused to comply, but that language has since been removed. The bill has now cleared the Texas Senate and the House along party lines.

The bill’s opponents say it opens up the possibility of discrimination. “While I’m sure the intent of this bill is to protect individual freedoms, in reality it would provide a segue for individuals looking to circumvent the rules of the law in the name of religion,” said Democratic Representative Julie Johnson, a member of the Texas House’s LGBTQ caucus. “Private businesses could legally refuse service to families like mine based on the owners’ religious belief.”

To that end, Democratic state Representative Jessica González, the LGBTQ caucus’ vice chair, tried to add a provision that would have provided protections for individuals based on their sexual orientation. But Republican state Representative Matt Krause, the author of the House bill, said there’s “no discriminatory intent in [the bill] at all.”

Now the bill heads to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s desk who has not been, shall we say, subtle about what he intends to do with it.

The “Save Chick-fil-A” bill raises a host of questions. Are corporations entitled to the same rights that we as individuals have? If so, what happens when those rights run up against the rights of individuals or other corporations? That’s a conversation that requires a lot of nuance. Here’s hoping the expected upcoming legal battle around this bill is willing to recognize that.

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