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Other States Considering Arizona-Style Anti-Gay “Religious Freedom” Bills

A member of the notorious Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church protests marriage equality in San Francisco. Kansas is one of 6 states considering anti-gay "religious freedom" bills. (Cary Bass)

A member of the notorious Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church protests marriage equality in San Francisco. Kansas is one of 6 states considering anti-gay “religious freedom” bills. (Cary Bass)

SB 1062, Arizona’s anti-gay “religious freedom” bill, may be dead in the desert, but six other US states are currently considering similar discriminatory legislation.

Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor, vetoed SB 1062 Wednesday in the wake of massive nationwide opposition. In killing the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which would have allowed business owners to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds, Brewer declared that she had “not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.” Equality advocates rejoiced, the state’s business leaders breathed a collective sigh of relief at having dodged a potential bullet and the talking heads noted that, given a long enough timeline, justice usually prevails in this great nation.

But even as the ink from Brewer’s veto pen was still drying, no fewer than six other states were considering similar legislation. In one of those states, proponents actually acknowledged being inspired by Arizona’s SB 1062. Here are the states, in alphabetical order, in which anti-gay “religious freedom” legislation is currently pending:

GEORGIA: A House (HB 1023) and Senate (SB 377) version of the “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act,” both very similar to Arizona’s bill, are in the early stages of consideration. If passed in its current form, the measure would grant “the right to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious tenet or belief.” It would allow any company or non-profit to ignore state laws, including civil rights and non-discrimination laws. The bill is unlikely to advance.

IDAHO: HB 427, drafted to protect “free exercise of religion,” was proposed after a New Mexico wedding photographer was sued for refusing to work at a same-sex wedding. But after the bill’s Republican sponsor, Rep. Lynn Luker, declared that people “misinterpreted the intent to be a sword for discrimination,” the House sent the controversial measure back to committee. There’s also HB 426, which bars government or licensing boards from denying, revoking or suspending licenses or certifications for people who refuse service to others based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The measure prohibits “the intentional infliction of emotional or physical injury.”

KANSAS: Earlier this month, the Kansas House passed HB 2453, which aims to “protect religious freedom with respect to marriage.” The bill, which has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, allows people to refuse to “provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, privileges, adoption, foster care, other social services or employment benefits” related to same-sex marriages or civil unions. It also states that no one shall be compelled to “treat any marriage, domestic partnership or civil union as valid.” The measure may not survive the Senate; Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican, has stated that it goes beyond religious freedom and could harm businesses. Wagle took exception to provisions of the bill that allow government employees such as police and fire protection to refuse service to LGBT people under certain circumstances.

MISSISSIPPI: SB 2681, the “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” was approved 48-0 by the state Senate last month as a measure to insert “In God We Trust” into the state seal. But critics claim the measure, which includes provisions drafted to protect the rights of religious people, is even broader than Arizona’s rejected bill and amounts to a “license to discriminate.” In addition to permitting refusal of service based on religious grounds, it provides no protection against state-funded discrimination. SB 2681 was sent to the House, where a subcommittee struck a provision granting legal protection to defendants in discrimination lawsuits who claim their actions were based on their religious beliefs.

MISSOURI: “Inspired” by Arizona’s SB 1062, Missouri lawmakers have just introduced SB 916, which sponsor Sen. Wayne Wallingford, a Republican, says is meant to “protect Missourians from attacks on their religious freedom” by allowing businesses to turn away any potential customers for religious reasons.

OKLAHOMA: SB 1846, the “Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act,” would allow business owners with deeply-held religious beliefs to refuse service to gays and others who violate those beliefs. The bill, which is similar to Arizona’s, is currently being redrafted in the wake of the controversy surrounding that state’s unsuccessful bid to legalize religious-based discrimination.

North Carolina is currently considering whether to go forward with an Arizona-style “religious freedom” bill. Other states, including Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee, have rejected similar bills.

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