Texas lawmakers advance 'Save Chick-fil-A' bill

Texas lawmakers advance 'Save Chick-fil-A' bill
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The Texas House on Monday advanced a bill that prevents the government from penalizing a person or business for actions tied to their religious belief, weeks after debate was shut down over the so-called Save Chick-fil-A measure.

The House passed a new version of the bill in a preliminary 79-62 vote after it was revived by the state Senate, according to NBC News. The measure advanced largely along party lines, with one GOP state lawmaker voting against it.

The bill's passage serves as the latest episode involving the state Republicans' efforts to block government entities from taking "adverse actions" against companies due to their "religious beliefs."

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“It shows that Republicans will stop at nothing,” state Rep. Julie Johnson (D), a member of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, told NBC News. “They're willing to suspend all the rules, have committee hearings without quorum, and ram it through without any regard for the rules and order of procedure.”

Johnson, an openly gay lawmaker, earlier this month killed the House's version of the "Save Chick-Fil-A" bill by using a procedural maneuver to shut down debate on the measure. But NBC News noted that the Texas Senate revived the bill by creating a softened measure, SB 1978. 

The bill, which was introduced by state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), passed in the Senate in a party-line vote last week. State Rep. Sarah Davis was the lone Republican in the state House to vote against the measure Monday.

The Texas House is scheduled to conduct a final reading of the Senate version of the bill on Tuesday. Even if no Republicans flip their vote, the legislation will head back to the upper chamber, NBC News noted.

The House voted to remove a part of the measure that would allow Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to launch investigations into individuals or businesses who have potentially violated the statute. The Senate must pass the changes before the bill can head to Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) desk, the network noted. 

The so-called Save Chick-fil-A bill was introduced after the San Antonio City Council voted to ban the popular fast food chain from owning a new location inside the city’s airport.

Chick-fil-A has come under fire in recent years for its donations to groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

Proponents of the Texas measure say there is nothing discriminatory in the bill and that it aims to protect religious beliefs. But critics maintain that it supports discrimination against LGBT people.

“Republicans know legalized discrimination will cost working families and small businesses billions of dollars,” MarcoAntonio Orrantia, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party, told NBC News. “That’s why they snuck the bill through committee without any public notice."