Why lawmakers in Texas are trying to 'Save Chick-fil-A' and gay-rights advocates are fighting it

A month and a half ago, my GetReligion colleague Julia Duin first delved into the brouhaha over San Antonio’s refusal to allow a Chick-fil-A at its airport.

Guess what?

The controversy hasn’t gone away. In fact, a “Save Chick-fil-A” bill sparked by the Alamo City’s decision gained final approval by the Texas Senate just today.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

AUSTIN — The Texas Senate has approved a bill that would prohibit the government from penalizing individuals and businesses for their charitable giving to or membership in religious groups.

Senate Bill 1978, which supporters call the "Save Chick-fil-A" bill, was passed by a vote of 19-12 on Thursday afternoon after about four hours of debate over two days. Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, broke with his party to vote in favor, while Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo split with fellow Republicans to vote against the bill.

The legislation now heads to the Texas House for further debate, just 10 days before lawmakers are scheduled to go home.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about most news coverage of this bill: There’s a lot of coded language. I’m talking about phrases such as “the fast-food chain owners’ record on LGBT issues,” as a brief Associated Press news report characterized it.

Granted, the AP item is just a brief, but it never actually explains what that “record on LGBT issues” might be.

What exactly did Chick-fil-A do that might get it in hot water with gay-rights advocates?

Give the Dallas newspaper credit for including a few specifics:

Hughes' bill would prevent any government entity from taking "adverse actions" against an individual or business for their "membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation or other support to a religious organization." Supporters say the bill would protect the rights of businesses like fast food chain Chick-fil-A, which the San Antonio City Council booted from the local airport after its nonprofit foundation made donations to Christian organizations like the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

The Salvation Army is a Christian denomination that claims about 2 million members around the world and belongs to the National Association of Evangelicals. It has a position statement that says “Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex.” At the same time, the Salvation Army says it embraces and serves all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

So apparently, the Texas bill would allow Chick-fil-A to give money to the Salvation Army without being penalized by, say, the San Antonio City Council for contributing to an “anti-gay” religious group.

No doubt, it’s difficult for reporters covering the incremental developments on legislation such as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill to include all the relevant background and context in each and every story.

At the same time, it would be helpful if news organizations — such as the Austin American-Statesman and the San Antonio Express-News — offered more concrete details on Chick-fil-A’s supposed negative record on treatment of LGBT people.

And yes, before anybody points it out, I recognize that the Chick-fil-A controversy did not start in San Antonio. There’s a much more complex history that goes back years.

But for the purposes of fair, accurate reporting on the Texas legislation, it would help if news outlets presented the basic, crucial facts on both sides.

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