The Texas Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would prohibit a state agency from adopting “any rule, regulation, or policy” that would burden an occupational license holder’s “free exercise of religion” or “freedom of speech regarding a sincerely held religious belief.”
The bill also provides that a holder of an occupational license from the state may claim that the state agency has violated this rule as a defense if their license is threatened. However, the person would not be allowed to assert a violation of this rule as a defense to “an allegation of sexual misconduct” or “prosecution of an offense.”
The bill also states that the rule “does not apply to the license or regulation of peace officers by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.” It also does not bar state agencies from doing anything to “ensure that the standard of care or practice for the applicable business, occupation, or profession is satisfied.” Finally, it does not allow license holders to “refuse to provide a medical service” that would be “necessary to prevent death or imminent serious bodily injury.”
The proposed legislation has been criticized by LGBT rights advocates who claim it will permit discrimination.