Chorus of Voices Against AZ Discrimination Bill Puts the Spotlight on Similar Bills in 8 States

by Charles Joughin

Business leaders must play a role in stopping destructive and baseless discriminatory measures

WASHINGTON – With mounting opposition to Arizona’s so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called on other states considering such measures to abandon their own “license to discriminate” bills.  In addition to Arizona, similar bills have been introduced in Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon (proposed ballot measure), South Dakota and Tennessee. Many of these bills would not only permit discrimination against LGBT people, but against any group not covered by federal public accommodations law, such as women and veterans.

“These bills are bad for business, bad for the LGBT community and bad for all Americans,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “These bills have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with shameful discrimination. Make no mistake about it; states that do enact these bills into law will face less investment, fewer jobs and a reputation for standing on the wrong side of history.”

In Arizona, a diverse collection of business, faith and civil rights groups have opposed the law.  PetSmart, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a slew of travel and tourism businesses joined with bishops of the Methodist, Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches in opposing the law.

“If you want your state to become a pariah for business, then these laws are just the thing for you,” added Griffin.  “With corporations showing they will not stand for discriminatory laws, any state that wants to attract investment, grow their economies or host conventions and major sporting events should dismiss these efforts out of hand.”

Given that most state legislatures are near the beginning of their sessions, it is possible that additional bills may be introduced in the coming weeks.  Already, efforts in Maine and Tennessee have not made it past key legislative hurdles.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that businesses should not be able to deny services to someone because they’re gay or lesbian:

  • According to a poll by Third Way and the Human Rights Campaign, 69 percent of Americans don’t think a business owner should be allowed to refuse to provide products or services to an individual because that person is gay or lesbian, compared to an incredibly small 15 percent that do. And when asked about small business owners in particular, a full 68 percent of Americans don’t think they should be able to refuse service to gays or lesbians, regardless of their religious beliefs. This supermajority included 55 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents, 67 percent of people without college degrees, and 68 percent of Christians.
  • When asked specifically about wedding-related services, like catering, flowers, or cakes, being provided by small businesses, 64 percent of voters were still opposed to new laws that would allow small businesses to deny wedding-related services based on their religious beliefs, compared to 31 percent in favor.

Because the language in the Arizona bill is so broad, any individual, corporation, institution, or business organization may be able to justify discrimination against LGBT individuals by claiming a religious belief. Potential examples include:

  • Undermining local non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT individuals.
  • Interfering with licensing organizations that have professional regulations protecting LGBT individuals.
  • Employees may potentially bring litigation against employers who are enforcing internal nondiscrimination policies or municipal ordinances
  • Pharmacists could potentially refuse to provide HIV and hormone replacement therapy drugs.
  • Restaurants, inns/hotels could potentially turn away same-sex couples celebrating an anniversary, adoption or pregnancy.
  • Wedding garment shops, bakeries, photo studios, and reception halls could close their doors to same-sex couples planning their weddings.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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