When Arizona’s legislature passed SB 1062 last week, which would allow businesses to use religious beliefs to justify discrimination against LGBT customers (among others), it was the exception. Similar “license to discriminate” bills stalled that same week in legislatures in Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Maine, and Idaho. Now, a new wave of bills in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri is meeting largely the same fate.
In Georgia, House Bill 1023 would advance the same “religious freedom” protections proposed in Arizona by expanding the definition of “person” to businesses. The bill seems unlikely to meet a committee deadline for consideration, meaning that it’s dead. A similar bill did pass out of committee in the Senate, but it’s unclear whether it will advance to the Senate floor in time to meet the same deadline.
Indiana lawmakers attempted a different tactic. On Monday, the House Ways and Means Committee slipped a provision into an unrelated bill that would allow state contractors, including schools and charities, to discriminate against employees based on religion. House leadership has already killed the proposal. Its sponsor, Rep. Eric Turner (R), also authored the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Ohio’s House Bill 376 contains the all-too-familiar “religious freedom” language that immunizes religious belief from government burden, but it too was dead on arrival. Lawmakers claim it was designed to allow for individuals to wear religious garb, and they won’t revisit it until they can ensure it does not protect discrimination. It’s unclear if there was any such need for even those religious protections.
Misssouri state Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R) introduced Senate Bill 916 this week, openly admitting he wanted to protect business owners like bakers and florists from having to provide services to same-sex couples. Ironically, Wallingford supported employment protections based on sexual orientation last year, though that bill ultimately did not pass. It seems that he doesn’t think it’s okay to fire someone for being gay, but it is okay to refuse someone service if they’re marrying someone of the same sex. The fate of Missouri’s bill is yet unknown.