Washington State Senator Sharon Brown and eleven other Republicans are desperate for some attention, and some money to be thrown their way from the anti-gay Right. These twelve have decided to undermine the state’s anti-discrimination law by creating a loophole that would cause other problems and allow for discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals.
Brown and the others want to allow business owners to discriminate against lesbians and gays based upon some vague “sincerely held” religious or philosophical belief or “matter of conscience.”
SB 5927 would, supposedly, not allow businesses to deny services to people based upon race, religion, disability or other Federally protected class, but would allow them to discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, or anyone else they deem fit.
The bill reads:
The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, philosophical belief, or matter of conscience may not be burdened unless the government proves that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.
Brown offered the usual excuses for why this has to be done claiming that the measure would protect people and religious organizations from being burdened by actually selling to people they disagree with. She claimed that “There’s a glaring lack of protection for religion in state law.” Which is, as expected, an excuse. People are free to worship as they will.
Spokesman for Equal Rights Washington Josh Friedes noted that the bill “undermines our entire approach to ensuring the equality of all Washingtonians in commerce.” He also called it “discrimination, pure and simple.”
The bill was introduced because of a pair of lawsuits filed against Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts after the owner, Barronelle Stutsman refused to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding. She cited her “relationship with Jesus Christ” as her justification despite the fact that she had been selling to the two men for years.
It is, of course, an attention seeking measure. Republicans do not have control of either chamber of the Washington legislature. It is unlikely to pass, and even if it did, the second that the US courts or the US Congress passes protected status for LGBT Americans, the law becomes invalid anyway.