Target: State Senators Sharon Brown, Janea Holmquist Newbry, Mike Hewitt, Jim Honeyford, Don Benton, Barbara Bailey, Mike Padden, John Braun, John Smith, Ann Rivers, Linda Evans Parlette, and the Washington state legislature
Republican state senators in Washington recently filed a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people based on religion, “philosophical beliefs,” or “matters of conscience.” The bill is in response to a recent lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson against a florist who refused to supply the flowers for a gay couple’s wedding. If signed into law, the bill would effectively legalize discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.
Not only would this bill legalize homophobic bigotry, but it clearly undermines what has already been established by Washington voters. A 2006 law has already made it illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Of course state Senator Sharon Brown, the lawmaker who introduced the bill, disagrees. She claims that the bill “is intended to protect religious freedoms.” Religious freedom has long been protected from discrimination under federal law, making this bill unnecessary and redundant in respect to religious protection. The government cannot make laws that infringe on others’ freedoms or equality based on people’s discomfort, religion, or individual philosophical beliefs. This type of argument has already been exhausted by those who placed signs that read “Irish Need Not Apply” in storefronts to the bigots who resisted desegregation during the 1960s. By extension of Brown’s logic, interracial marriage could still be illegal because a minority group finds it offensive, a business could refuse to hire women because the owner believes them inferior to men, and child labor laws could be nonexistent because someone believes making children work builds character. People are still entitled to believe these ridiculous claims because the Constitution also protects free speech; they are not, however, entitled to laws based on these beliefs because they would discriminate against the rights of others.
While religion is already protected under federal law, sexual orientation and gender expression are not included in federally protected classes, which makes the LGBT community vulnerable to this type of attack. Sign the petition below to tell Senator Brown and the Washington legislature that this discriminatory bill must not pass.
Dear Senator Sharon Brown and members of the Washington legislature,
Senate Bill 5927 is an attack on the freedoms and equality of LGBT people in Washington poorly disguised as a protection of religious beliefs. The bill would effectively legalize discrimination against members of the LGBT community based on religion, individual philosophy, or the vague inclusion of “matters of conscience.” Not only would this bill legalize homophobic bigotry, but it clearly undermines what has already been established by Washington voters as evidenced by the 2006 law that makes it illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The government cannot make laws that infringe on others’ freedoms or equality based on religion or a person’s “feelings” towards a particular group. People are entitled to hold prejudices because the Constitution also protects free speech; they are not, however, entitled to laws based on discriminatory beliefs because they would infringe upon the rights of others.
Unfortunately, sexual orientation is not yet included in federally protected classes like race and religion, which is why we demand that you do not pass this bill. It flies in the face of the values that founded our country, goes against the will of Washington voters, and it would legislate hate against a minority group.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: mind on fire via Flickr