Right now Arizona is considering passing a so-called religious freedom bill. The bill, which goes by SB 1062, is designed to allow business owners to refuse service to gays or other groups that offend their religious beliefs. And Georgia is right behind Arizona’s lead vying to pass the same legislation, earning Georgia a significant spot in the national debate about a similar bill named HB 1023.
These bills, that are nothing but profoundly discriminatory, are perhaps born out of fear or even worse bigotry, but the underlying truth is that they are some kind of counterreaction to how rapidly this country has changed within the past few years, where especially the topic of gay rights has been on the forefront of massive national change. The cultural hotspot is for many equal to the undermining of the freedom and ability of individuals of faith to act according to their religious beliefs. Many people of faith even feel that liberty of religion is in decline in this country.
The proposed bill gives business owners the right to refuse service to people that offend their religious beliefs. But as it is pointed out in the embedded Anderson Cooper interview with Arizona Republican State Senator Al Melvin, the same legislation could be used to refuse service to a pregnant unmarried woman, because she, according to the Bible, is sinful. A fact that is adamantly denied by the senator, because ‘ who would refuse service to a pregnant woman?’ only underlining the absurdity of this bill.
As things stand now The LGBT status is not a protected category under federal law (although maybe it should be?), so in effect, there is nothing prohibiting business from refusing to serve any customer, including gays, in the first place. These newly proposed laws are simply codifying a right that already exists, so this is basically institutionalizing discrimination.
The supporters claim they are protecting their religious freedom, which is already protected under Civil Rights. So, these new laws are by no means providing any additional protection to people of faith, but are in fact formalizing the right of religious people to discriminate against others based on their supposed religious beliefs. And for now the main target seems to be gays!
So yes, SB 1062 is profoundly discriminatory and if the bill gets passed in Arizona and/or Georgia (with HB 1023) we have so far only seen the tip of the iceberg of the legal, social, and political absurdity of these laws.
The deadline to sign this anti-gay bill into law is this Friday.
For a more in-depth look and opinion on SB 1062 and HB 1023 please look for a full article on the subject in our upcoming Law & Politics Isuue out on March 13th.
Source: AJC, CNN, NPR