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Maine Says No To Discrimination, Arizona (Naturally) Says Yes

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014

In a mostly party-line 89-52 vote, the Maine House defeated a bill that would have created a special exemption for those who wish to claim a right to discrimination based on religious beliefs.

While the exemption was supposedly aimed at allowing discrimination against LGBT people and same-sex couples, the bill itself did not provide such narrow grounds for claiming an exemption. Instead, the bill sought to exempt anyone from anti-discrimination laws or any other law or regulation if it would “Constrain or inhibit conduct or expression mandated by a person’s sincerely held religious tenet or belief.” That would include any kind of act, whether its discrimination against a gay couple or an African-American family or a single woman. Two Democrats, Rep Stan Short (Pittsfield) and Steve Stanley (Medway) voted for the measure. Five Republicans — Reps. Michael G. Beaulieu (Auburn), Richards Campbell (Orrington), Aaron Libby (Waterboro), Sharri MacDonald (Old Orchard Beach), Joyce Maker (Calais) — voted to kill the bill.

While Maine’s lawmakers showed their sanity in turning down the bill, Arizona’s lawmakers are working diligently to preserve their state’s reputation for being among the most hostile and retrograde in the nation. House Bill 2153 would provide a similarly broad exemption for religious people by allowing them to “act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” As Dan Savage describes it in a post titled “It Could Soon Be Legal For Satanists to Discriminate Against Christians in Arizona“:

That’s not the law’s intent, of course. Arizona’s proposed new law, like the ones in Kansas and Idaho, is about legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians. But in an effort to hide the anti-gay prejudice behind their “religious liberty” bill, Arizona lawmakers have worded it so vaguely that it empowers anyone of any faith to discriminate against anyone for any reason—provided, of course, that the person doing the discriminating remembers to cite their sincerely held religious beliefs as a justification.

It also adds a new element of discrimination into the law: atheists would have no grounds to claim protection for refusing to serve gay people in a restaurant or rent to Latinos or hire Jews. This law and others like it carve out a special privilege available to religious people only.

An identical bill sailed through Arizona’s Senate last Wednesday in a 17-13 party-line vote. And true to form, the Arizona House passed the measure in another 33-27 vote. Republicans Rep. Kate Broohy McGee (Phoenix), Heather Carter (Cave Creek), and Ethan Orr (Tucson) voted no.  It will now land on Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk by nightfall.

Mother Jones reports that these rash of bills are hitting state legislatures in rapid succession:

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

The Arizona and Idaho bills were brought forward by state policy organizations associated with CitizenLink, a Focus On the Family affiliate. Others, like the Kansas bill, were crafted by the American Religious Freedom Program, which is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The sponsor of the Tennessee bill withdrew it yesterday, while lawmakers in Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota turned back measure in their states. This came on the same day that the Kansas Senate president announced that her chamber would not consider a discrimination exemption bill that had passed the House earlier. The Kansas version was perhaps the broadest bill of all, as it would have covered all government employees including first responders.

Comments

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TampaZeke
February 20th, 2014 | LINK

Just when you thought that there was no new depth to which Republicans could stoop they come up with Jim Crow 2014!

Arizona must be so proud. I never thought I’d see the day that Arizona would out-Mississippi Mississippi.

Merv
February 20th, 2014 | LINK

Thank you for taking the time to look at and report the actual text of the bill. It drives me crazy when the reporting is based on little more than slogans, and then we proceed to have an uninformed conversation based on inadequate information. The effects of the bills are often very different (and worse) than we are originally led to believe by proponents and detractors.

Atriokke
February 21st, 2014 | LINK

“in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief”

At some point, some of them should sit down and define what religious belief entails. What is considered a religious belief?

Text lines from a book?
Do they have a constraint on what books can be considered to derive a religious belief?
Can any traditional beliefs fall under religious -such as those from the Catholic church- ?

Early in life we all quickly learn to identify which are the more famous religions.. but soon after realize that religions are never constrained to those ones and there is no limitation as to what belief they may hold. Fascinating stuff.

customartist
February 21st, 2014 | LINK

1. Amendment IX (1791)

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

2. Amendment XIV (1868)

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Timothy Kincaid
February 21st, 2014 | LINK

I have the feeling that the acolytes of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are going to declare that their deity demands discrimination in some very interesting ways.

“I’m sorry, but my Lord Flying Spaghetti Monster requires that I not tow cars with an ichthys. Yeah, I know I’m the only tow company in town so I guess that sucks for you.”

“Sure I know you ordered your wedding flowers a month ago, but last night I heard the FSM tell me that he disapproves of selling flowers to unattractive people.”

FYonug
February 21st, 2014 | LINK

This is the URL of the Maine bill: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=SP0514&item=1&snum=126

SharonB
February 21st, 2014 | LINK

Slam dunk summary judgment against the states who enact these junk pandering laws.
And they think they live in tyranny, HAH!

homer
February 21st, 2014 | LINK

Strange to think that someone’s religious beliefs trump by ability to purchase gasoline, groceries, or medicine from a business that operates because I pay the taxes for the roads leading to it, the police and firemen that protect it, and so on.

AlexH
February 21st, 2014 | LINK

Just when you think we’re finally walking through the open door something like the AZ and KS bills come along and BAM! we see the ugly face of discrimination is still alive and kicking.

Victor
February 22nd, 2014 | LINK

This is all a set-up for the next wave of bogus, unconstitutional laws intended only to drive evangelicals to the polls in 2014 and 2016. Outrightly anti-gay-marriage bills served this purpose a few years ago. But the tide has turned on that one so the new focus is on enshrining the loosely defined exercise of “religious liberty” as superior to the protection of basic civil rights in a secular society.

In short these laws signal the formal declaration of (an ultimately futile) war to convert the U.S. from a representative democracy into a political theocracy. The fact that probably not even Antonin Scalia would support such a law is unimportant if you can wring 2-5 years of short-term electioneering out of the strategy.

There was a time when any orchestrated effort to undermine the function of the civil laws of the United States would be declared “sedition” – but if that were still the fashion almost the entirety of the U.S. Congress would be in prison – not to mention at least two Supreme Court justices.

Must religion’s credibility in America be utterly destroyed before we are free from those who have turned basic, honest faith into Fascism?

God Help U.S….

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