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"Religious freedom" changing from freedom of
religious beliefs
to
freedom to hate and discriminate

2014: Part 7:
Review of other states' anti-gay legislation.
What groups are generating these bills?

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2014-FEB-26: Brief descriptions of bills in other states to allow faith groups and wedding businesses to discriminate:

Some states have religious exemptions to allow clergy, churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. to refuse to marry same-sex couples on religious grounds with impunity. However, these exemptions are redundant. They serve no useful function. As often noted in this web site, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already gives absolute and total immunity from prosecution to clergy and other faith group personnel who don't want to participate in a wedding.

Massachusetts and Iowa were among the first states to legalize same-sex marriage. They were ordered to do so by state courts. Their marriage legislation offers no special protection for persons in the marriage industry or for clergy who want to discriminate.

Passage of the marriage law that legalized same-sex marriage (SSMs) in New York state was only possible after a few Republicans negotiated a religious exemption clause and then agreed to vote for the bill.

Religious exemption bills have been introduced in many states that would allow a person or company to claim a religious freedom defense if they are the defendant in a lawsuit brought by an individual who has been discriminated against.

  • As noted above, the bill in Arizona had reached the Governor's desk. It was the only one to get this far. Massive opposition surfaced from many segments of the population. She vetoed the bill on 2014-FEB-26. 11

  • Bills have been introduced in Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

  • Bills are stalled in Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Utah.

  • The Oregon Family Council is sponsoring a ballot measure that they hope to place on the 2014-NOV ballot. It is called the "Protect Religious Freedoms Initiative." Its purpose is to allow private businesses to refuse to sell goods and services that involve same-sex marriage.

  • Bills were defeated in Colorado, Maine, and South Dakota. 3,12

In reaction to the firestorm of opposition to the Arizona bill, bills in several states have been shelved indefinitely.

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2014-FEB-22: The scope of Arizona bill SB1062, and other similar bills in other states to legalize discrimination:

As noted above, there have been many states during late 2013 and early 2014 that have introduced bills promoting the "religious freedom to discriminate."

John Aravosis, writing for AMERICA blog -- a LGBT positive blog -- commented on the SB1062 bill in Arizona.

He pointed out:

  • Arizona is one of many states that has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). These RFRAs are intended to protect the religious freedom of an individual believer, a congregation, or a religiously affiliated institution from unwanted government intrusion or restriction.

  • Arizona bill SB1062 -- and many recently introduced similar bills in other states -- are similar to RFRAs. However:
    • They do not require Government intrusion.

    • They protect protect private businesses, associations, partnerships, corporations, foundations, other legal entities in addition to the religious individuals and groups covered by RFRA. For the first time, a business now can be considered to have a religion and assert its need for religious freedom.

  • Under the protection of one of the new "freedom to discriminate" bills, a restaurant might enforce a policy of refusing to serve LGBT customers. A gay customer might submit a complaint against the restaurant under the state's existing human rights law. But under this new law, the restaurant can be considered to have a religious belief that can be used as a defense for its discriminatory acts.

Aravosis comments:

"That means even your homeowners’ association (HOA), which is a legal entity, could now have a religion, and potentially refuse to enforce your condo bylaws based on whatever religious concerns they have about you."

During 2014-JAN, Tracey Stewart of the Anti-Defamation League wrote

"This broad definition of person would essentially include any for-profit business corporation or business entity providing them with a powerful affirmative defense to the enforcement of any state law or local ordinance which the entity deems religiously offensive." {Emphasis by us]

The new laws do not require the government to be a party to a lawsuit. There needs only to be a government action, like a human rights tribunal involved in a human rights complaint. Alternately, a state court could be involved in a contract dispute between two companies, or a company and an individual, or two individuals, etc.

Aravosis writes:

"Under the new law, what if a police officer, or an EMT, refused to answer a 911 call because the citizen in need was gay and 'living in sin,' and this offended the emergency responder’s religious beliefs?

If the city had a civil rights public accommodations law covering gay and trans people, you could sue the city under that law, but the officer and the city could both claim to be exempt under RFRA, since your sexual orientation [or gender identity] offended their religious beliefs. And as cities are 'legal entities,' SB1062 could also permit the city to claim protection for their religious beliefs under RFRA, though this might run afoul of federal constitutional protections.

The ADL offer some additional examples of the kinds of absurd claims that could be made under SB1062:

  • An employer could raise SB1062 as defense to an employee’s equal pay claim ... arguing that his or her religious beliefs require that men be paid more than women.

  • The legislation could be used as defense to paying statutorily accrued interest on liens or other amount owed to individuals or private entities based on a religious objection to paying interest.

  • A secular corporation with religious owners could refuse to hire someone from a different religion, so as to avoid paying a salary that might be used for a purpose that is offensive to the owners’ religious views.

  • A Christian-owned hotel chain might refuse to rent rooms to those who would use the space to study the Koran or Talmud.

  • A Muslim-owned taxi company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.

Alessandra Soler, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona compared the state's "license to discriminate" bill with an earlier anti-immigrant bill:

"Once again Arizona’s Legislature is on the wrong side of history. Four years ago, after the passage of SB 1070, we were ridiculed for legalizing discrimination against brown people. The targets today are gay and lesbian Arizonans. They own homes, run businesses and pay taxes just like everyone else but under the guise of religious freedom they are now being vilified by Arizona lawmakers. This bill is not about God or faith. There are already laws on the books in Arizona protecting religious freedom. What today’s bill does is allow private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming." 8

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Which groups are promoting these laws?

Donna Liebelson, writing for Mother Jones, listed states that have recently introduced bills to preserve the "religious freedom to discriminate" and similar bills. She included: Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee.

She wrote:

"Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills, ... essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. ..."

"The RFRAs and the bills that target same-sex marriage have been pushed by Republican lawmakers, but in some cases, they were first promoted or drafted by a network of conservative Christian groups. According to the Wichita Eagle, the American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP) -- which is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative organization founded in 1976 -- crafted the language for the Kansas bill.

Brian Walsh, executive director of the ARFP, which supports religious freedom measures, acknowledges that his group consulted with the legislators on the bill, but he says that lots of other groups did as well: 'We gave them suggestions and they took some of them.' Walsh says that ARFP was contacted by legislators who wrote the Tennessee bill and that the group frequently talked to legislators in South Dakota about "religious freedom" but not the state's specific bill.

Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council in Idaho, one of many state groups that are part of Citizen Link, a branch of Focus on the Family, told Al Jazeera America, 'We've been involved in working on the language' of the Idaho bill.' Another member of Citizen Link, the Arizona Policy Center, has been active in supporting the Arizona bill. And the Oregon ballot initiative was proposed by Friends of Religious Freedom, a conservative Oregon nonprofit. 9

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Chas Sisk, "TN lawmakers drop wedding vendors bill," The Tennessean, 2014-FEB-18, at: http://www.tennessean.com/
  2. Cari Wade Gervin, "Hooray! It's Still OK to Be Gay in Tennessee!," Metro Pulse, 2014-FEB-18, at: http://blogs.metropulse.com/
  3. "Foes of gay marriage scramble after setback," Idaho Press, 2014-FEB-16, at: http://www.idahopress.com/
  4. Alai Beard Rau, "Arizona Legislature OKs religion bill; on way to Gov. Brewer. Measure pits freedom against discrimination," AZCentral, 2014-FEB-21 at: http://www.azcentral.com/
  5. Text of SB 1062, AZCentral, 2014-FEB-21 at:http://www.azcentral.com/ This is a PDF file.
  6. "Arizona's SB 1010," American Civil Liberties Union, undated, at: https://www.aclu.org/
  7. "Arizona legislature sends ‘anti-gay’ bill to Republican governor Jan Brewer," The Guardian, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://www.theguardian.com/
  8. John Aravosis, "Arizona passes “Citizens United”-type law protecting corporations’ 'religious beliefs'," AMERICA blog, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://americablog.com/
  9. Donna Liebelson, "Inside the Conservative Campaign to Launch "Jim Crow-Style" Bills Against Gay Americans," Mother Jones, 2014-FEB-10, at: http://www.motherjones.com/
  10. "Scott," "USA: Who Is Pushing These “Right to Discriminate” Bills?," Gay Marriage Watch," 2014-FEB-22, at: http://purpleunions.com/blog/
  11. Jan Brewer,"SB 1062 - Press Conference," 2014-FEB-26, at: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/
  12. Chelsea J. Carter, Ben Brumfield & Tom Watkins, "Arizona's decision on anti-gay bill unlikely to end religious liberty movement," CNN Politics, 2014-FEB-27, at: http://www.cnn.com/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2014-FEB-21
Latest update: 2014-MAR-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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