Iowa Bill Would Allow Businesses To Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples

This morning, an Iowa House subcommittee will consider House Study Bill 50, a measure that would allow an “Iowa business owner who cites religious beliefs to refuse to provide jobs, housing, goods or services to people involved in a marriage that violates his or her religious convictions.” The bill is just the latest in a long-string social of conservative measures introduced by the Republican House majority that is likely to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth offers these details:

House Study Bill 50, called the Religious Conscience Protection Act, would allow a person, business or organization such as a charity or fraternal group to deny services without fear of facing a civil claim or lawsuit if they think doing so would validate or recognize same-sex relationships.

The same-sex exclusion is by itself constitutionally troubling, several legal scholars and civil rights activists said.

However, the bill is so broad that it would legalize a wide spectrum of other discriminatory acts, they said. They raised questions about whether services could be denied if, say, a Christian were married to a Jew or if a woman who is 60 married a man who is half her age and the couple could not procreate.

“We want to hang on to our religious identity and continue to provide services by doing what we believe our religion calls us to do,” Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference told the Iowa Independent. That “identity” is already protected in Iowa, since religious organizations are in no way compelled to perform same-sex marriages, which were legalized in the state through a Supreme Court ruling in 2009.

Opponents of the measure argue that the bill “opens the door to discrimination against interracial and interfaith couples” and raises serious constitutional concerns. But the “identity” argument is novel, because taken to its extreme it would then permit Catholics to discriminate against divorcees, contraception users, and anyone else who rubs against their religious grain.