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As Arizona Backs Off Discrimination Bill, Legislation Moves to Other States

As Arizona Backs Off Discrimination Bill, Legislation Moves to Other States

Early this week, Arizona state legislature approved a bill that would literally protect discrimination against homosexuals in the state under the guise of “religious freedom.” People in and out of the state were aghast. Companies threatened boycotts. The NFL said it would pull the Super Bowl. Finally, even politicians who originally proposed the bill were telling Republican Governor Jan Brewer to veto it.

Brewer did. But Arizona isn’t the only state with a bill that would allow discrimination against the LGBT community under the guise of religious freedom. So how are the other bills faring?

Ohio

Ohio’s “religious freedom” bill was believed to be similar to that of Arizona. According to bill sponsors, however, the legislation was primarily for ensuring Ohioans could publicly parade their religious beliefs without fear of blowback. “We thought it would be a good idea to protect people who wanted to wear their Yarmulke to work or put their Bible on their desk and not be punished in any form for that,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, alluding to a case where a teacher was allegedly fired for having his bible out in public at school. (That wasn’t exactly the case; he was let go for promoting Christian ideas in the classroom.)

Lawmakers decided to give up the bill on Wednesday after public pressure from civil liberties groups.

Georgia

The Georgia bill was just as short-lived as Ohio’s. The so-called “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” was meant to be heard early in the week, but faded off into the sunset after bill sponsor Sam Teasley was contacted by irate constituents. “After introducing the bill, a number of citizens expressed concerns that the language could be construed in a way that might encourage discrimination,” Teasley stated, according to Mother Jones. “I do not believe that the bill as introduced does that. It was most certainly not my intent and frankly, as a man of faith, that would be inconsistent with what my faith teaches me. My faith teaches that all people, regardless of belief system, are to be treated with dignity and respect.”​

Mississippi

According to Right Wing Watch, Mississippi was intending to pass a “religious freedom” bill by tacking it onto a bill putting “In God We Trust” onto the state seal. The seal passed unanimously, but the language to allow discrimination as long as it occurred because of a person’s religious beliefs was struck from it. Instead, the final language ratifies the original 90s Religious Freedom Restoration Acts language that protects religious freedom but does not allow that freedom to be used as an excuse to discriminate against others in hiring or services. Not everyone in Mississippi agrees that the change eliminates the possibility of discrimination, though. “The bill, obtained by Deep South Progressive, still says that state action cannot ‘compel any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion’ and continues to define ‘exercise of religion’ to mean ‘the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief,’” warns Deep South Progressive. “Those key parts of the bill, which LGBT activists feared would legitimize discrimination by businesses that claim ‘sincerely held religious belief’ as the motivating factor, remain unchanged.”

Missouri

While there doesn’t seem to be unanimous consent on whether or not the Mississippi discrimination bill is defanged or not, no one has any doubts about the bill in Missouri, where an Arizona-style bill was introduced early this week and still remains up for consideration. Interestingly, the same lawmaker proposing the bill also voted to have sexual orientation be a protected class when it comes to workplace or housing discrimination in the state. In other words, according to the bill’s sponsor, a person should not be discriminated against based on sexual orientation unless a business wants to refuse services to that person based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. Or, something along that line.

Yes, that confuses us as well.

It remains to be seen if Missouri will follow the lead of every other state to propose a “turn gays away” bill since Arizona and let the issue die without a vote.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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94 comments

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7:54PM PST on Mar 8, 2014

Cathleen K
Maybe I am just tired or reading it wrong, but it looks to me like it says it is proposed. I checked the poster at work that all business have to post with workers rights and it does not list sexual orientation either.

10:23PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

I hug my son hard all the time and he hugs me right back. He is over 40 now and he isnt the least bit shy about hugging his daddy. Its asinine that anyone elsee would care. This insane homophobia we have in this country has got to die. Mind your own damned business folks.

10:17PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

You're right, Dale B. The idiot assumed, and you know what happens when you assume. Isn't it sad that people feel so threatened by a display of affection that they have to respond with violence. What does that say about our society?

3:19PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

Hi Karen H.,
What you described at the end of your post actually happened here in Tampa several years ago. A married man with children had a married friend of his come visit from out of the country. When they were at the airport saying goodbye they gave each other a hug. Some idiot saw this and assumed they were gay and he started a fight over it. The friend trying to leave the country missed his flight over it. It's really sad that the sight of two men hugging each other could bother someone so much they were willing to start a fight over it. Good Grief Charlie Brown!

1:04PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

Alan L, signed your petition thanking Brewer.
Arizona realized it had a lot of MONEY to lose if it passed this bill. Think of all the MLB spring training camps that might pull up stakes and move away. Think of all the MLB fans visiting the state to watch those games—and realize that many of those fans are (gasp!) LGBT!!!
Anne M is so right. How hypocritical these people are, decrying Putin for putting down gays while they’re doing exactly the same thing here in the U.S. Must be a case of “Not in MY back yard!”
Dale B makes a good point. Some who “look gay” aren’t, and some who don’t are. How can you tell? If I hugged a dear female friend (or even a female relative) in public, I’m sure somebody would point a finger and say, “Oh, look! Lesbians!”

12:30PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

Tim: The article specifically states that MO has such laws.

5:20AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

I could be wrong, but I don't think Missouri has protections in place for LGBT people in housing, I know it doesn't in employment. If my boss want to fire me for being gay she is perfectly within her legal rights to do so in Missouri. I am lucky because she would not fire me for being gay. She is one of the enlightened ones. Keep in mind Missouri is one of the first states to amend it's state constitution to deny LGBT people the right to marry. An amendment I might add, that actually legalizes discrimination against a group of people.

1:17AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

If Missouri has laws that say you can't discriminate against LGBT people in housing or the workplace, I could live with a bill that let's a confused Christian (I say confused because Jesus didn't hate gay people, only greedy hypocrites) baker refuse to provide a cake for a gay wedding, especially since gay weddings aren't legal there anyway, so I doubt it'll ever come up. Perhaps these confused Christian bakers are actually objecting to the sorts of cakes often ordered for Bachelorette parties.

It's funny that in states with some economic viability like Arizona, Georgia and Ohio, these bills are dead letters, but in hopeless dumps like Missouri and Mississippi, where no business would relocate at gun point, it's full steam ahead.

5:16PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

For now anyway...

12:51AM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Would these bills allow for LGBT not to serve heterosexuals? I'd like to see them take a stance with that. People might think a bit. Well, some people. Apparently a lot of them aren't capable of thinking.

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