So the governor of Arizona Jan Brewer has vetoed the bill that would allow people who have ‘sincerely’ held religious beliefs to not serve those whom they disapprove of (i.e., members of the LGBT community), saying that the bill would have ‘unintended consequences’ (translation: the business community was telling me that they would suffer and Arizona could even lose the hosting of next year’s Super Bowl).
One consequence of Brewer’s action is that it effectively scuttled a similar move that was pending in Ohio where legislators were trying to introduce a bill that was similar to Arizona’s.
[Democratic State Representative Bill] Patmon says the bill under consideration in the Ohio House is written to protect religious freedom of Ohioans.
“It will protect you if you want to exercise your faith at work, if you want to pray, if you want to wear a cross, if you want to exhibit something at your school that doesn’t interfere with government interest. We would apply the strict scrutiny test to it and say you can’t do it because it is not in our interest to ban people from wearing yamikas or any of that,” Patmon said.
“I think it opens the exact same doors that the Arizona bill does,” Nick Warner, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said. He says the fact is that Ohio’s bill is full of unintended consequences.
Now Patmon has said that he is withdrawing the bill because it is open to ‘misinterpretation’ and that he never intended it to be discriminatory. Right.
But we should not expect the dead-enders who oppose equal rights for the LGBT community to give up. In fact, sensing that the tide is turning, they seem to be doubling their efforts to try and entrench their views into the law, using the ‘religious liberty’ fig leaf. But as ACLU spokesperson Nock Worner said, “For some people, [religious freedom] means not only do you have a right to your religious beliefs, you have a right to force it on people. That’s not what religious freedom is. It’s a shield, not a sword — it’s to protect you from the government, not to attack others.”
Meanwhile the move to repeal Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has split the gay rights movement here. One group FreedomOhio has collected enough signatures to put the repeal amendment on the ballot in 2014. But another group Equality Ohio feels that they should have waited until 2016. The latter’s argument is that because of the trends, an extra two years would result in more people voting in favor of repeal. Currently polls indicate that the issue is roughly evenly balanced in Ohio and off-year elections like 2014 usually result in lower turnout among Democratic voters, reducing the chances of success.