The Austin Chronicle

The Texas Hammer: Grab Bag

More Austin bashing from our state lawmakers

By the News Staff, March 17, 2017, News

Religious Liberty

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015 sparked a religious freedom craze amongst homophobes across the country that found a healthy breeding ground in Texas politics. Bills intended to protect innocent Christian-owned businesses from having to serve queer people have been filed in the past two legislative sessions, though many LGBTQ activists suggest that Senate Bill 651, filed by Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, could be the worst yet: It would expand "religious liberty" rights to cover medical and health care professionals, thereby allowing anti-trans/LGBTQ doctors to refuse treatment of queer patients without any legal repercussions.

Sarah Marloff

Fair Chance Hiring

In a victory for workers' rights, Austin City Council passed a resolution last year that requires private employers to delay asking about a job applicant's criminal conviction history until a conditional offer of employment is made. Austin became the first city in the South to offer the "Fair Chance Hiring" ordinance, which seeks to even the playing field for ex-offenders. So leave it up to a conservative state lawmaker to stomp out the civic progress: State Rep. Paul Work­man, R-Austin, filed a bill this session that would overturn the local measure and any others like it. Workman has criticized the labor protection as an infringement on the "rights and liberties" of Austin citizens. Despite the threat of repeal, nearly all of Austin City Hall remains committed to enforcing the protection.

Mary Tuma

Bag Bans

In 2013, Austin introduced a ban on cheap disposable shopping bags, encouraging stores to provide reusable options instead. That's not so hard: Austinites adapted quite quickly, and cities such as Laredo, Browns­ville, and Port Aransas followed suit. Yet for some unknowable reason, diverting an estimated 200 million trash bags away from landfills has driven conservatives to the point of distraction. Last year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a series of lawsuits against the participating cities. The state's challenge now sits with the state's Supreme Court.

Richard Whittaker

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