By Newsweek |

What is SB-17 Bill? Texas Bill Could Allow Licensed Professionals to Deny Services Based on Religion, Sexual Identity

Texas lawmakers could pass a bill that would allow licensed professionals to deny services based on their religious beliefs.

The bill, known as Senate Bill 17, advanced to the Senate on Monday night, the Dallas Morning News reported. The bill was introduced by Senator Charles Perry and would allow anyone with a state license, such as lawyers, doctors, and real estate agents, to deny their services to anyone because of their religious beliefs, according to the publication.

Kali Cohn, the staff attorney for ACLU Texas, told Newsweek that if this bill is passed, the bill could affect LGBTQ people and licensing professionals could turn them away.

“This law could particularly affect LGBTQ Texans and make them vulnerable to discrimination,” Cohn said. “I think that we can see all sorts of discrimination. It covers counselors, teachers and people who are certified professionals. It can really create an environment of people to deny others based on someone’s identity, particularly to LGBTQ people.”

During the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday night, the bill passed it with a vote of 7-1 and will be sent to the Senate for further debate, the Dallas Morning News reported. While the bill does not allow for someone specifically to cite their religious beliefs for medical treatment, the state did not broaden those protects for anyone who is LGBTQ.

"This bill seeks to ensure that no person is hindered from seeking an occupational license, or loses their license, based on their faith," Perry said. "This bill does not — I repeat, this bill does not permit an individual to violate state or federal law."

gettyimages-1016784074-594x594 (2) The Rainbow Flag at Copenhagen Pride Week 2018's main venue at the City Hall Square renamed Pride Square on August 14, 2018 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Texas could pass a bill that could allow licensed professionals to deny services to anyone based on their religious beliefs. Ole Jensen - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Jessica Shortall, the managing director of Texas Competes, a coalition of businesses and pro-business organizations in Texas, told Newsweek that it could particularly affect those who identify as transgender.

“Licensed professionals could pick and choose who to work with based on someone’s identity and not being comfortable with someone’s lifestyle,” Shortall said.

Rasha Zeyadeh, a civil rights attorney with the law office of Rob Wiley PC in Texas, says that this could also affect people with different religious beliefs, like Muslims and Jewish people.

"If this bill passes, it would open up the gates of legal discrimination. It would turn down everyone and anyone of their beliefs, specifically in the LGBTQ community," said Zeyadeh. "Should this bill pass, I think it will in essence wide-spread legal discrimination."

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was a constitutional right for a Colorado baker to deny service to a gay couple in 2012 based on his religious beliefs. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to sell a wedding cake to Charlie Craig and David Mullins because of his religious beliefs.