My earlier post on developments in gay discrimination legislation offered by Republican lawmakers mentioned an effort to get a comment from Gov. Asa Hutchinson on a second and more sweeping bill, HB 1228, which would give anyone a religious excuse to justify discrimination against people on anything, from employment to housing to public services.
Hutchinson has drawn national attention — and some criticism — for allowing SB 202 to become law. It prevents local governments from protecting gay people. The House bill, by Rep. Bob Ballinger, would be more sweeping in barring the state from acting against anyone who claimed a religious belief allowed their discriminatory action against a gay person.
Late this afternoon, I got a response from gubernatorial spokesman J.R. Davis about the governor’s thoughts on the pending bill, which has passed the House and is on a Senate committee calendar tomorrow:
We are reviewing the legislation. Though the Governor has questions about it, we expect some amendments to be offered, and so we will watch how it changes as it goes through the legislative process.
Instant editorial: Limited discrimination is still discrimination. The construct that religion protects discrimination has become a successful message for the anti-gay campaign nationwide though it was laughed out of court as a defense to discrimination on the basis of race back in the 1960s, when it also was employed.
That discrimination — already we’ve heard of gay people denied medical services on account of their sexuality — is the antithesis of the core message of most religion seems to escape notice. Golden Rule anyone?
PS — This bill and the Senate bill by Bart Hester are not styled as discrimination bills, of course. This one is styled as “conscience protection.” Hester’s is styled as an attempt to bring uniformity to local laws — something that doesn’t exist in most other areas of civic regulation.
The styling is only cosmetic. The bills were developed in response to the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance for LGBT people. They reflect an animus toward LGBT equality and a deep belief that discrimination against gay people in employment, housing and public accommodations SHOULD be legal. That will be evident when these legislators vote against an expected modest civil rights bill this session.