Monday, March 11, 2013

Freedom to Discriminate?

In the past month, there's been plenty of buzz surrounding some legislation in Carson City. Perhaps that's allowed other legislation to quietly bubble up. One such bill is SB 192.

So what is SB 192? Otherwise referred to as "The Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act", SB 192 claims to "prohibit governmental entities from substantially burdening the exercise of religion". Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-Spring Valley) introduced this bill. And already, she's attracted a bipartisan crew of co-sponsors.

So what is SB 192? It's basically Nevada's version of this.

"It's legislative abuse, it's legislative bullying, it's legislative dictatorship and it should not be permitted," said civil rights attorney Pedro Irigonegaray.

Senate Bill 142 is called the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. Supporters say it is needed to prevent government from forcing a person to violate their religious beliefs. It was approved last month by the House on a 91-33 vote and is pending before the Senate.

Opponents of the bill say it will invite discrimination and invalidate a Lawrence anti-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation. [...]

C.J. Brune of Lawrence attended the rally, and said, "I can't imagine living in a worse world where someone's religion would impact my rights."

Taylor Harris of Hutchinson said, "They're trying to make it legal to discriminate."

Holly Weatherford, with the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said, "We cannot allow the use of religion to discriminate and call it religious freedom. We must push back."

Jeez, it even has the same title! Just change the state listing at the front. That's all.

Its origins can be traced to ALEC, the "Tea Party, Inc." clearinghouse for radical right legislation. Oh, yes. That's right. ALEC also has model legislation on gutting anti-discrimination laws by claiming "violation of religious freedom". And ALEC member Barbara Cegavske is bringing it to Nevada.

The clear intent of the Kansas version of this bill was to legalize discrimination. A few Kansas legislators have even openly admitted that.

Kansas state Republicans want to make sure residents can discriminate against LGBT people, so much so that they have advanced a bill that would allow individuals to sue the government if they are deprived of the opportunity to do so. Yesterday, the Kansas House overwhelmingly passed HB 2384, the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which prevents the government from “burdening a person’s exercise of religion” [...]

This is a step beyond the kind of legislation lawmakers have advanced in states like Tennessee that prevent municipalities from establishing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to this bill, not only would municipalities be inhibited from protecting against anti-LGBT discrimination, but those who do discriminate would become protected and entitled to do so.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Lance Kinzer (R) claimed his bill is merely about the “free exercise of religion,” but confirmed that an apartment owner could use the measure to fight a complaint if he refused to rent to a same-sex couple. It constitutes nothing short of a religious license to discriminate against LGBT people.

The very same bill was attempted in Colorado. Yet there, it died in committee precisely because the Democrats on the committee caught what was hiding behind the title.

Meanwhile Monday, a bill that supporters said was aimed at preserving religious freedom was killed on a party line vote in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, said House Bill 1066 would guarantee that Coloradans' free exercise of religion would not be infringed on. The bill would have allowed a person accused of discrimination to assert their religious convictions in any civil action and then recover attorney's fees. [...]

But opponents, who included the ACLU of Colorado, the Mountain States Anti-Defamation League and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, argued that the bill would essentially legalize discrimination in the name of religion.

Opponents cited their own examples from other states like a bus driver who refused to drive a passenger to a Planned Parenthood clinic, a boss who fired an unmarried woman who became pregnant and a student counselor who condemned, rather than consoled, gays who came to her.

That's the real aim of SB 192 here in Nevada. If passed, it would provide license to apartment owners who refuse to rent to gay tenants, pharmacists who refuse to provide contraception to women in need of it, bus drivers who refuse to take Muslim passengers to the local mosque, and more. It would open the door to a wide variety of civil rights abuses. And it would unleash a flood of litigation into courtrooms throughout Nevada. So much for "limited government conservatives" whining about "frivolous law suits".

So why even go there? That's what Cegavske's SB 192 co-sponsors need to ask themselves and each other. Should Nevada reallt promote "freedom" to discriminate?

No comments:

Post a Comment