Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial religious freedom bill some criticized as anti-gay, but six other similar proposals brewing in legislatures from Missouri to South Dakota still have a shot at eventually becoming the law of the land
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer sent cheers rippling through a group of protesters gathered outside the state capitol on Wednesday evening when she vetoed a controversial bill that would have protected business owners who cited their religious views in denying service to gays. Ohio spiked a similar measure on Wednesday. Kansas lawmakers created the same kind of firestorm earlier this month when the House passed a bill allowing private and public employees to refuse to serve same-sex couples (the state Senate later killed that measure).
And this could still be just the beginning.
These two high-profile legislative debates are just part of a budding trend across the nation, with states pushing measures that proponents call religious freedom bills but opponents label state-sanctioned discrimination.
Here are six related proposals getting less attention than the battles in Kansas and Arizona.
Missouri Senate Bill 916: Introduced a week after the bill in neighboring Kansas was kiboshed, this Republican-backed measure broadens the state’s definition of protected “free exercise of religion” to include “an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief.” Though it does not explicitly mention sexual orientation, an op-ed writer for the Kansas City Star pointed out the similarities and said that “letting Kansas go down the yellow-brick rat hole alone seems to never be good enough for some Missouri lawmakers.”
Illinois House Bill 4263: Currently sitting in the state rules committee, this proposal was filed as a counter-measure to a law passed last year stating that all state protections, rights and benefits apply equally to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, as well as their children. The summary states that “no religious organization, including a school, is required to provide religious facilities for a marriage solemnization ceremony or celebration associated with [that ceremony if it] is in violation of its religious beliefs.”
South Dakota Senate Bill 66: Introduced by nearly 30 lawmakers, this proposal is designed to “provide immunity to clergy, lay officials, and religious organizations that decline to provide certain marriage services” if those marriages are “contrary to the individual’s or entity’s sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience.” State Sen. Ernie Otten, one of the sponsors, has withdrawn another bill that would have more broadly protected people or businesses that denied service to gay and lesbian couples. Otten told the Associated Press in January that he felt the bills were necessary to have in place should courts overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage, much like a judge did in Texas on Wednesday. Otten did not answer a request for comment about why he withdrew the second bill.
Tennessee House Bill 2467 and Senate Bill 2566: These companion bills introduced in each of the legislature’s chambers this February protect virtually any business or person from lawsuits if they refuse services, goods, counseling, adoption or employment benefits to same-sex couples, “if doing so would violate the sincerely held religious beliefs.” A note on the bills’ impact states that public employees would still need to provide services to everyone, unlike the Kansas bill, which included government workers.
Oregon Ballot Initiative #52: Oregon is one of 20 states that has a law on the books that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. This proposed ballot initiative would protect people who violate that law from penalties and civil actions when that violation is “based on religious beliefs against same-sex marriage/civil union/domestic partnership ceremonies.” A baker like one in a high-profile Colorado incident could refuse to make wedding cake for gay couples if voters approved the measure.
Hawaii House Bill 2493: This bill protects religious organizations and non-profits from any claims “related to any refusal to provide goods, services, or facilities for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the organization’s religious beliefs or faith.” Introduced in January, the bill is currently in committee.