HRC Calls on AZ Gov. Jan Brewer to Veto License to Discriminate Law

by Charles Joughin

Deeply flawed legislation harms LGBT and other communities

WASHINGTON – Following the Senate passage of Arizona’s so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“This bill is bad for business, bad for the LGBT community and bad for all Arizonans.  Governor Brewer, who herself described it as very controversial, must veto it and send a strong message that legally sanctioned discrimination has no place in Arizona.

“Religious groups have a long established first amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs.  However, when individuals or businesses go out into the commercial market, they must abide by legal non-discrimination provisions. 

“When providing a service to the public, a business owner shouldn’t pick and choose who they want to provide a service to and who they want to deny.  Instead of protecting religious liberty, this bill gives license for discrimination to run rampant across the state.” 

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% that do. And when asked about small business owners in particular, a full 68% 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% of Republicans, 75% of Independents, 67% of people without college degrees, and 68% of Christians.
  • When asked specifically about wedding-related services, like catering, flowers, or cakes, being provided by small businesses, 64% 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% in favor.

Because the language 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, including employer provided benefits for same-sex spouses (health insurance, retirement) and LGBT non-discrimination policies.
  • 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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