Texas Senate passes controversial religious liberty bill

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The Texas Senate passed a controversial bill on Wednesday, which supporters say is meant to protect the religious liberty of Texans.

“Senate Bill 17 will ensure that no Texan will ever have to choose between their job and their faith. Preserving religious liberty has, and will always be, one of my top priorities,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in a statement.

The bill bars state license-granting agencies from denying or stripping professional licenses “based on a sincerely held religious belief” of the applicant or license-holder.

But critics say that the bill would grant licensed professionals permission to discriminate against LGBT individuals. The licensed professionals include doctors, lawyers, and teachers. 

An exception was included that requires medical providers to treat patients who are at immediate risk of death or serious injury. 

The bill passed by a 19-12 vote with one Republican voting against with Democrats and one Democrat crossing the aisle to vote with Republicans.

Sen. Charles Perry, the bill’s author, disputed claims that the bill encouraged discrimination.

“It’s not licensing discrimination at any level,” he said during floor debate.

But Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, strongly disagreed.

“You know that saying, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig?'” Miles said. “Sen. Perry, this is a discrimination bill.”

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