Villalba to reconsider religious liberty bill, vows collaboration with stakeholders

State Rep. Jason Villalba

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.

Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, announced yesterday (Monday, March 9) he would reconsider HJR 55 after the Texas Association of Business, Equality Texas and others expressed concern it would discriminate against LGBT people.

He also announced his intention to work with various stakeholders, including TAB, who came out against the joint resolution and SJ 10, its senate companion, filed by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, at a meeting last month.

“I came to Austin to solve problems, to help create jobs and to grow the Texas economy by supporting Texas businesses.  I have done this through voting to cut taxes for Texas businesses, reducing unnecessary regulations and by supporting initiatives to build our Texas infrastructure,” Villalba said in a statement.

While he called his resolution “well-intentioned and narrowly crafted,” he said he took the concerns of the business community and others seriously. “I cannot and I will not support legislation, however well-intentioned, that would result in harming the job creators who are so very valuable to the Texas economy.”

The resolutions propose a constitutional amendment to the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bipartisan 1999 law signed by Gov. George W. Bush.

Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, lauded Villalba’s statement. “We need more of his brand of common-sense conservatism in the Texas Legislature. The Texas Association of Business is grateful for Villalba’s careful re-consideration of HJR 55 and we look forward to working with him to ensure that Texas businesses and jobs are protected.”

“We congratulate Rep. Villalba in reconsidering his proposed state constitutional amendment, HJR 55. No Texan should be turned away from a business or government office because of who they are or what they believe or don’t believe,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

Chuck Smith, Executive Director of Equality Texas, lauded Villalba’s willingness to reconsider the resolution as well. “Rep. Villalba has done the right thing in announcing he can no longer support HJR 55, which would harm Texas business and allow religion to be used as a weapon. Texas’ existing RFRA has worked well for 15 years to ensure the protection of religious liberty, and serves as a model for other states. Any proposed amendment is unnecessary.”

No word if Sen. Campbell also plans to reconsider her bill.

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