Senator Ed Murray said, “I don’t think we want to go into our civil rights laws and decide who gets served and who doesn’t get served.”
In response to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s filing of a lawsuit against a florist for discrimination for refusing to supply flowers for a gay couple’s wedding Earlier this month, 12 Republican state senators have filed a bill that “would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people based on religious or ‘philosophical’ beliefs.” According to Raw Story:
State Sen. Sharon Brown (R) and 11 other of the 23 Republicans in the Washington state Senate want to legalize discrimination against gay and lesbian couples with Senate Bill 5927. The measure goes far beyond religious exceptions, allowing business to discriminate based on “philosophical beliefs” or even “matters of conscience.”
“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,” the bill states.
Legislation passed in Washington state in 2006 made it illegal to discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation, and in 2012 citizens voted to legalize same-sex marriage. However, unlike race, religion and disability, LGBT people are not considered a “protected class” under federal law, so this new bill does not recognize a business refusing them service as discrimination.
According to The News Tribune, Senator Brown claims the bill’s intent is not to “undermine the law or the rights of gays and lesbians in the state,” she also insists it is not a “commentary on same-sex marriage,” but is instead meant to protect individuals, businesses, and religious organizations from legal persecution. She said, “There’s a glaring lack of protection for religion in state law.”
However, a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington, Josh Friedes said the bill “seeks to undermine the state’s anti-discrimination laws,and it undermines our entire approach to ensuring the equality of all Washingtonians in commerce. It is discrimination, pure and simple.”
The bill has yet to be referred to a committee or scheduled for a public hearing, but if a special session of the state senate is called it may be heard at that time.