In a face-palm moment for equality, a new bill up for vote in Iowa would allow businesses to refuse jobs, goods, housing, and services to same-sex couples—and anyone who supports same-sex couples—on religious grounds.
House Study Bill 50, called the Religious Conscience Protection Act, would allow a person, business, or organization such as a charity or fraternal group to deny services without fear of facing a civil claim or lawsuit if they think doing so would validate or recognize same-sex relationships.
The bill is worded so broadly that it could potentially apply to unmarried straight couples who live together, married straight couples of interfaith, and even those suspected of using contraception. (Cue witch-burning chant.)
Rep. Richard Anderson, R-Clarinda, the bill’s sponsor, claims that he’s trying to “protect religious liberty,” citing the First Amendment as his primary constitutional reference. But for anyone who’s followed the history of gay rights, this is a tired defense. Oh, and also absolute bullshit.
As The Independent‘s Johann Hari put it:
In order to justify their desire to discriminate against gay people, the few remaining homophobes have concocted a scenario where they are The Real Victims. They can say what they want, set up churches or mosques that preach what they want, and turn away gay people from their homes every day of the week if they so desire—and I would defend every one of those rights to the last ditch. There is only one thing they can’t do. They can’t choose to offer a service to the general public, and then turn people away on the basis of race or sexuality. They can’t put up de facto signs saying “No blacks, no Irish, no gays” at their B&B.
Yet the fevered support behind Bill 50 begs the question: What are its supporters really hoping to accomplish? Do they think—as Dan Savage asked—that “legal gay marriage is making straight people gay? Or that banning gay marriage will make gay people straight? Or that banning gay marriage will somehow transform those irresponsible, meth-smoking Iowa breeders who abuse, neglect, and abandon their kids into responsible parents and procreators?”