The Chick-fil-A sandwich chain has long served as a flash point in the fight for equality, thanks to the open disdain for the LGBTQ community expressed by its CEO, Dan Cathy. Though the company claims to welcome everyone these days, its charitable foundation still contributes to anti-LGBTQ organizations, and so still receives significant opprobrium. That’s why officials in San Antonio recently made approval of an airport concession contract contingent on exclusion of the eatery, which offers its signature sandwiches six days a week at many airports (the chain is closed on Sundays in observance of the Christian Sabbath).
In recognition of the GOP’s loud solidarity with conservative Christians alleging persecution by people who just won’t let believers express their bigotry, Texas Republicans sprang to Chick-fil-A’s defense. Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott cried foul. Christian right Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened to investigate San Antonio for its intolerance. And GOP legislators offered “religious liberty” legislation with a potentially alarming sweep, as the Texas Tribune explained:
When the bill was first filed, it contained sweeping religious refusals language that had the potential to gut the few existing protections for gay communities, hailing from a national sweep of anti-LGBTQ model legislation.
Despite a strong effort from the legislature’s small but brave LGBTQ caucus, the bill was considerably watered down:
As it’s made its way through the Legislature, the bill has been progressively stripped of its most controversial provisions, leaving a version that largely codifies existing legal protections: freedom of religion and freedom of association.
On Monday, House sponsor Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, weakened the measure further, removing a provision that would have empowered the Texas attorney general to bring lawsuits against governmental entities accused of religious discrimination.
Even though the bill as amended essentially codifies existing Texas laws, those laws are weak enough as protections for LGBTQ people (Texas is not one of the states with a general anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity) that it remains controversial, passing the Texas House on a party-line vote (it earlier passed the Senate with a similar partisan division).
As the Washington Post observed, Texas Republicans’ apparent solicitude for the free-speech rights of homophobic state contractors is a tad ironic, given another recent action:
The bill stands in notable contrast to another passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Abbott in 2017. That legislation had an opposite thrust — it required government contractors to sign a pledge saying that they would not boycott Israel.
That law was blocked at least temporarily by a federal judge. The latest bill could produce some litigation as well. But for the time being, the most likely effect is to buttress consumption of chicken sandwiches by conservative Evangelicals who view patronizing the chain as a blow against political correctness and the homosexual agenda, and perhaps a step toward their own separate Gilead without uppity sodomites and feminists. Too bad they can’t chow down there after church on Sundays.