WA Republican Legislators Want Legal Discrimination

A group of Republican legislators in the state of Washington are trying to pass a law that would explicitly allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, all in the name of “sincerely held” religious beliefs. As if the sincerity of a belief is relevant at all.

Washington state Sen. Sharon Brown and 11 other Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians based on a business owner’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs or “matters of conscience.” The measure would also undermine current state anti-discrimination law.

Senate Bill 5927 would not allow businesses to deny services to people based on race, religion, disability or other protected classes under federal law; but being gay or transgender is not a protected class, so discriminating against them is fair game, according to the bill:

The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, philosophical belief, or matter of conscience may not be burdened unless the government proves that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.

Brown defended the measure as “protection” for people and religious organizations “burdened” by, it seems, the very existence of gay people: “There’s a glaring lack of protection for religion in state law,” she told the Associated Press.

So why can’t they discriminate if they have a “sincerely held religious belief” that black people are cursed by God? Or if they have a “sincerely held religious belief” that women should not work and therefore they shouldn’t have to hire women? I mean, if it’s all about religious freedom, why do they demand favor only for their religious beliefs and not for others?

23 comments on this post.
  1. composer99:

    Senate Bill 5927 would not allow businesses to deny services to people based on race, religion, disability or other protected classes under federal law; but being gay or transgender is not a protected class, so discriminating against them is fair game, according to the bill

    The fruits of pedantic legalism. It’s like reading about a stereotypical gaming “rules lawyer”.

  2. ReneeHendricks:

    I’m wondering the same things regarding this law. It began because a florist who had been fine providing goods for a gay couple suddenly having a religious issue with providing those same goods for a wedding. I even asked if we changed “gay” to “black” if people would be just as asinine about the whole thing.

  3. jnorris:

    Don’t let me see any Republican Tea Party wives with pierced ears in my business, that’s an abomination.

  4. Kevin:

    These people are idiots.

    A bill that separates LGBT from others in effect creates a new protected class. Prima facie evidence — the bill itself.

  5. jamessweet:

    Blargh. I actually have some sympathy for the arch-libertarian position that private businesses should be able to discriminate against anybody for any reason. I think it’s wrong, but I have some respect for the ideals that drive such a mistaken position. It’s a self-consistent and coherent philosophy, even if it leads to suboptimal outcomes.

    But somebody who thinks that you should be able to discriminate against gays based on your religion, but NOT be able to discriminate against African-Americans based on your being a dick, that just really grinds my gears. It’s both wrong and incoherent. It’s just indefensible from every possible angle.

  6. Stevarious, Public Health Problem:

    I just don’t get it. If you should be allowed to violate laws in deference to deeply held religious belief, why can’t satanists perform human sacrifices? Surely they aren’t going to argue that satan isn’t REAL.

  7. Sastra:

    The Faith card is supposed to be trumps. We’re supposed to read it and weep.

  8. evilDoug:

    Is it not the case that once a business has been incorporated it is an entity separate from the persons who applied for the incorporation, making the latter employees of the business? It would seem to me that the religious convictions of the employees of the business are therefore wholly separate and distinct from that of the business. If a person or group of persons wishes to maintain their “right” to discriminate against other persons, they should not be granted special privileges in terms of tax benefits, liabilities, etc. of a limited corporation.

  9. d.c.wilson:

    So why can’t they discriminate if they have a “sincerely held religious belief” that black people are cursed by God? Or if they have a “sincerely held religious belief” that women should not work and therefore they shouldn’t have to hire women? I mean, if it’s all about religious freedom, why do they demand favor only for their religious beliefs and not for others?

    Ed, some where at this very moment, there’s a republican state legislator who jotting this down under the heading of “ideas for next session.”

  10. shouldbeworking:

    I have sincerely held religious belief in the divine right of kings. So would I allowed to restore Gawd’s Annointed Sovereign to her rightful place as Queen of the 50 colonies?

  11. John Pieret:

    Keep up the good work, guys! This is exactly the kind of shit that is alienating independants and young voters. Keep working hard and before very long you’ll be able to hold your national convention in a mid-sized high school gym.

  12. CaitieCat:

    Come Christian Taliban
    Hate them anal sects, now
    Marriage come, and they want to say NO!
    Come Christian Taliban
    Hate them homer-sekshuls,
    Marriage come, and they want to say NO.

    Et c., et c..

  13. rork:

    There may be a difference between it being skin color and preferences between the sheets – 1964 civil rights act. That’s not a philosophical point. Just that going to color or sex might violate federal law.
    However, around me (MI) folks want ability to not offer some medical reproductive services, which I think is an example where the civil rights act does apply (sex discrimination).
    Disclaim: I am not even in the top 100 constitutional thinkers visiting here. Teach me better.

  14. raven:

    How are they going to know who is GLBT?

    Strangely enough, they are just people and look like…all the other people.

    What happens if they guess and guess wrong? Which happens all the time anyway.

  15. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden:

    @Raven, #14:

    The laws are written such that discrimination based on “actual or perceived” [race/sexual orientation/religion/whatever] is equally illegal, and “perceived” has been judicially interpreted as including “assumed”.

  16. doublereed:

    This was very much the argument used not only for blacks but for women. People claimed that men were the head of households (their religious belief) and therefore should be payed more for the exact same job for no reason other than their sex.

    As the ACLU says over and over again, Religion is not a License to Discriminate.

  17. vmanis1:

    I’m assuming that this bill won’t go anywhere; WA is a very sensible, progressive place, even though it does have pockets of idiocy. From a very hasty reading of the draft, I think it has a serious flaw, which could be raised if and only if it does reach the floor of the Legislature: it doesn’t actually single LGBTs out as a class (even though the de facto effect would be to do so, hence rendering it unconstitutional); rather, it just raises this idiotic defence based on religious beliefs.

    Hence the bill has an unintended effect: it allows discrimination against homophobes. A business owner can now say `I don’t want your business, because God told me that you haters are all going to hell. Please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’ Thus, encourage the proponents to rewrite the bill as a standard We Hatez Gayz bill, to make the targets of animus clear. This should get the bill laughed out.

  18. timberwoof:

    It’s important that the bill specifically exempts discrimination criteria that have been made illegal by legislation: that way the author can with righteous indignation claim he’s not a bigot. Of course, once Washington passes a nondscrimination act that includes sexual orientation, this piece of fluffery will no longer cover that.

    The intended consequences of this bill may not raise a lot of sympathy in some quarters, so the way to defeat this measure is to present all the unintended consequences. The more these are base din religious beliefs, the better. Of course, the sticking point is the business about “sincerely held” beliefs. Who certifies that? Can’t be the government.

  19. Mal Adapted:

    You know who else had “sincerely held” beliefs? HITLER!!!11!!!

  20. Rip Steakface:

    Consider that this is the same state that legalized gay marriage six months ago.

    Yeah, this thing is going nowhere. Though the WA state senate is Republican-controlled (barely, they actually rely on two Democrats that caucus with them), the House is 56% Democratic, and the governor is a Democrat, and the state just passed marriage equality, meaning anti-gay rhetoric is just not going to work here any more soon.

  21. thumper1990:

    “It’s OK to treat people as if they are less than human, providing you sincerely believe that to be true”.

    Seems fair. *sigh*.

  22. thumper1990:

    “The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, philosophical belief, or matter of conscience may not be burdened unless the government proves that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.”

    What if every non-bigoted shop owner in Washington State refused to serve Sen. Sharon Brown as a matter of conscience? Do y’think she’d see a “compelling Government interest” to force them to do so?

  23. JustaTech:

    *sigh* Time to write my (state) congress critters and tell them “I’m pretty sure you’re with me on this because you’re from Seattle and not flaming jerks, but please no on this, kthxbai? ”

    This is a consequence of large states. The population is hugely diverse in their wants, needs, abilities, and outsets. It can be good, but it can also lead to a lot of go-nowhere in the government. “It’s hot!” “No, it’s raining!”

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