Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Discussion of Religious Freedom Legislation

by Brig Bagley

11 March 2014

Several states have followed a pattern set by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in the US in 1993 by the House, Senate, and Bill Clinton. The law was ruled unconstitutional in 1997, but these various states have created some form of RFRA to take it's place. The laws were primarily to protect religions from court cases and legislation that limited religious activities as much as possible, which seems redundant, but not harmful.

Since the forward leaps of marriage equality, several right-wing groups have pressed their more conservative legislators to pass law to not just protect religion. As a last resort and final blow to LGBT people, these groups wish to legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians for religious people, businesses, and even government. 

The wording is usually in regards to "refusing service to someone based on deeply held religious beliefs." However, it's certain that this kind of law would allow anyone with a strong distaste for another person's lifestyle to discriminate openly without any repercussion. 

Think about it. Gays, lesbians, trans-genders, and bisexuals are being stripped of the right to buy food, clothes, and shelter simply because of their lifestyle. Of course, not every American is going to actually discriminate, but giving anyone the right to discriminate tells the world that people like LGBT are second class citizens. The normal heterosexual people are more important and deserve more. Perhaps many people that supported the laws didn't see it this way. But it absolutely sends that message and has the potential to be just that damaging. 

Arizona just escaped such a law with the Governor's veto, but Mississippi and Kansas are two states at risk of signing them into law. If your state is close to legalizing discrimination, stand up for equality and fight it to the end. Gay or straight, it is not American to discriminate fellow citizens for any reason, and we should all get out to support equal rights for all.

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