The Medical Case Against Religious Freedom Legislation in Texas

By Kevin Nix, Senior Director of Communications

It looks like Texas might be the next frontier in the coordinated southern strategy to pass religious freedom laws. And medical providers here could be swept up into the debate.

Texas has had a strong religious freedom law on the books since 1999, but it’s possible any policy fight here will be messier than what’s happening in North Carolina, where the business-led backlash to its “religious freedom” law has been swift and severe. Texas is home to more than 50 Fortune 500 companies, many of which are on record opposing LGBT discrimination because it’s bad for their bottom line.

In other states, medical exemptions have become part of newly-minted laws.  Tennessee’s Governor approved legislation last month allowing therapists to refuse treatment to clients based on therapists’ “sincerely held principles,” while the Mississippi Governor signed a similar law, making it legal for doctors and psychologists to refuse service to certain patients if it violated their beliefs.

What any new religious freedom bill (s) looks like in the Lone Star State come January’s legislative session is unknown.  But inclusion of medical professionals is unnecessary and redundant. Texas health care providers already have the right to refuse service, as explicitly stated by Texas Medical Association’s code of ethics. “A physician shall, in the provision of appropriate patient care, except in emergencies, be free to choose whom to serve.”

Generally, if a physician or therapist has a moral problem with a gay or transgender patient or anybody else for that matter, he or she currently doesn’t have to see them.

The market is working. The government doesn’t need to step into the exam room.