Post submitted by Adam Talbot, former HRC Deputy Communications Director
Today HRC issued a report and resource guide for journalists compiling more than two dozen new, sweeping and seemingly-coordinated pieces of legislation in more than a dozen states across the country—all geared toward undermining LGBT equality in a shroud of religious language.
The bills—many modeled on a failed attempt in Arizona last year that drew condemnation from businesses, faith communities, and elected officials in both parties—put all state non-discrimination laws at risk of being undermined or mooted. They threaten not just the LGBT community, but women, members of minority faiths and other minority classes.
“These bills do not address a legitimate problem with current law. Rather, they are written with the intention of creating harmful consequences,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “They put minority groups at risk of being denied service everywhere from the convenience store to the doctor’s office—and they send a harmful message that fairness, equality and the principles of our constitution are secondary to personal discomfort and prejudice.”
Advocates are sounding the alarm with today’s report, hopeful that a similar coalition that led Governor Jan Brewer veto Arizona’s discrimination bill last year will emerge again and push back secretive interests that are advancing this new wave of legislation.
As the report notes, the harm these bills may cause doesn’t end with the LGBT community. Under many proposed bills, an evangelical police officer could feel empowered to refuse to patrol a Jewish street festival; a city clerk could shirk the law and refuse a marriage license to an interracial couple, a divorcee seeking to remarry, or a lesbian couple; an EMT could claim the law is on his side after refusing service to a dying transgender person in the street; and the enforcement of other key sections of civil rights law could be dramatically undermined.