While the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, lawmakers in some states are still bickering over whether or not it’s lawful to openly discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender communities.
While that’s been a somewhat-expected and ongoing issue in conservative states like Arizona, it’s recently become the basis of discriminatory legal action in Washington state—a region arguably known for being liberal-leaning.
Nonetheless, 12 Republican state lawmakers recently filed Senate Bill 5927, which would allow business owners a legal right to refuse goods or services to members of the LBGTQ communities based on religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs or the more vague, “matters of conscience.”
Led by Washington state Sen. Sharon Brown-R, the bill is reportedly her attempt to protect religious freedom. It’s also a response to an anti-discrimination suit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson earlier this year; Ferguson brought the suit against a local flower shop owner who refused to provide flowers for the wedding of a longtime gay customer, based on what she said was her “relationship with Jesus Christ.”
While Washington state does currently have a state law on the books prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, this bill would override that statute.
5927 has been referred to an internal committee for review, but in the meantime, opposition to it has been vehement. Sen. Kevin Ranker-D told local news station, King 5 News, the bill is essentially a “license to hate.” He explained, “What that means is I could literally walk into a bar and somebody could say, ‘You look gay. I’m not going to serve you.’ ”
Ranker joins organizations like Equal Rights Washington and the Seattle Human Rights Commission in publicly denouncing what they characterize as the bill’s blatant discrimination.
In the meantime, LGBTQ acceptance continues to take hits in states like Arizona, which is still deliberating over its “No Loo for You!” anti-trans bill, and the state of Idaho, which just arrested a trans woman for using the women’s bathroom.
It’s incidents like these that stand in stark contrast to other countries, like Sweden for example, where measures to positively acknowledge LGBTQ communities are somewhat closer to the norm.
Themes of gay acceptance find their way into sporty, Swedish ads for mobile phones and the country has been acknowledged for its laws about gay partnerships and parenting. Sweden also recently adopted the gender-neutral pronoun, “hen,” and a secondary school outside of Stockholm announced its opening of a gender-neutral changing area, which will go a long way in making trans kids feel more comfortable.
For the U.S., achieving that level of LGBTQ acceptance may be some time off, but it can still serve as an example that different has nothing to do with dangerous. And just as we reached a hard-fought victory to prohibit other forms of discrimination, the rights of our LGTBQ citizens are just as important. How religion will fit into that remains an argument that the U.S. on the whole has yet to settle.
Do you think that religous freedom should be the legal basis for discriminating against people who identify as gay or transgender? Let us know what you think in the Comments.