A Texas lawmaker says he fears a new American Bar Association rule barring gender discrimination is striking fear among lawyers who believe in God.
Republican state Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for a nonbinding advisory opinion on the ABA rule, Courthouse News reported Thursday.
Perry wants to know whether a lawyer could be disbarred for challenging the validity of same-sex marriage or other controversial issues. Perry argues the rule could “open doors to punish lawyers who express views contrary to the State Bar with regard to religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity."
The ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility adopted a “black letter” rule change Aug. 8 that applies to the way a law practice operates, barring attorneys from discriminatory or harassing behavior. The amendment to the Model Rules for Professional Conduct covers bias based on race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomics.
Opponents say the rule infringes on First Amendment rights and a lawyer’s ability to represent clients zealously. Proponents called such concerns overblown.
Perry this week said the rule “suggests that if an attorney is part of a legal organization that stands against same-sex marriage or transgender policies, the attorney could lose their license."
He said the “amendment could open doors to punish lawyers who express views contrary to the ABA with regard to religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity ' both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer's business and personal affairs,' " adding the amendment "has caused fear in attorneys all over Texas who have faith in God."
"Could a lawyer who is an atheist and criticizes religion in a legal education class be subject to discipline or disbarment?" Perry asked. "Could an elected official, who is also an attorney, be subject to discipline or disbarment for debating proposed laws regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or socioeconomic status?"
The rule was first proposed last December and sparked hot debate.
Though the ABA doesn’t regulate professional conduct, state bar associations often follow its lead, the ABA Journal noted.