Republicans in Washington state have proposed a bill that would allow businesses to openly discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation if they want to do so because of their religious beliefs. SB 5927 carves out a specific exception to the state’s nondiscrimination law that says only federal protections — which don’t include sexual orientation — apply when a person’s religious belief is “burdened”:
Nothing in this section may burden a person or religious organization’s freedom of religion including, but not limited to, the right of an individual or entity to deny services if providing those goods or services would be contrary to the individual’s or entity owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience. This subsection does not apply to the denial of services to individuals recognized as a protected class under federal law applicable to the state as of the effective date of this section. 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.
Unsurprisingly, the bill’s sponsor is state Sen. Sharon Brown (R), whose district is home to Arlene’s Flowers, a business facing two lawsuits because it refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. Conservatives have claimed that the nondiscrimination protections Arelene’s violated are tantamount to Nazi homofascism, a sentiment Brown seemed to echo by claiming, “There’s a glaring lack of protection for religion in state law.”