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Opponents of Texas Religious Freedom Bills Say They Lead to Discrimination

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, discusses her concerns with a proposed constitutional amendment at the Texas State Capitol on Jan. 27, 2015.

Texas lawmakers have filed bills that would protect people who claim that city ordinances, state or federal laws interfere with their religious beliefs.

The measures come as the right to same sex marriage gains more traction at the federal level and Texas cities pass measures that protect people based on their sexual preference.

One of the proposed constitutional amendments, known as SJR 10, would protect Texans from acting, or not acting, because of a "sincerely held religious belief."  Its author is State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

Kathy Miller, the president of the Texas Freedom Network, argues, however, that a measure like this one could, for example, allow pharmacists to refuse filling birth control prescriptions, or it could tie the state’s hands in investigating child abuse, she says.

"Perhaps anything that butts up against your religious beliefs could be open to litigation and legal challenge if it comes into conflict with any kind of governmental regulation," Miller said at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday. "That’s very troubling and very significant."

Supporters of these measures, however, say they protect religious freedoms, and that people should be able to express their religious beliefs in government buildings, at funerals or at their own businesses.

"Texans should be free to run their businesses in accordance with their faith as intended by the founders of our nation, not forced by government entities to surrender their religious identity or act against their conscience," said Sen. Campbell in a statement.

Similar measures were introduced in the 2011 and 2013 sessions but didn’t get enough votes to pass.

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