Today the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 1264, which is essentially a “License To Discriminate” bill. The measure would allow businesses that oppose marriage equality to deny services to same-sex couples based on their “conscience” or religious beliefs. It also protects them from any civil claim of action for doing so:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person, including a business owner or employee thereof, shall be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request is related to the solemnization, celebration, or promotion of a marriage and providing such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges would be a violation of the person’s conscience or religious faith. A person’s refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such person.
Given the bill doesn’t even specify “same-sex” marriage, it would hypothetically protect the right of “conscience” to discriminate against any kind of marriage, including interracial, binational, and interdenominational couples. For this reason, it’s likely this bill would be preempted by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, among other nondiscrimination statutes.
The language in this measure mirrors similar “license to bully” exemptions that have been proposed in Michigan and Tennessee that would protect students from discipline if they expressed anti-gay views in school. New Hampshire’s Republican-dominated legislature is also considering a bill that would repeal marriage equality despite the fact most New Hampshire voters support maintaining the law.