Tuesday, February 8, 2011

GOP Sponsored Bill in Iowa House Legalizes Discrimination

I frequently have people who don't support same-sex marriage tell me that they do believe people in the LGBT community shouldn't face discrimination in other arenas (ie employment, housing, etc). With the extreme right wing gaining more and more power in the Republican Party, however, it looks like some GOP leaders are now advocating for legalized discrimination. A bill that was introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives would allow business owners to discriminate against people who is in a relationship that violates their religious beliefs.
It would be legal for an Iowa business owner who cites religious beliefs to refuse to provide jobs, housing, goods or services to people involved in a marriage that violates his or her religious convictions, according to a bill an Iowa House subcommittee will consider on Wednesday.

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.
There are a few things about this bill that I think are noteworthy. First of all, it jumps out to me as a law that would clearly violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. So even if it were to be signed into law, there is a good chance that we could see some legal challenges to it very soon afterwards.

Secondly, people who are following the debate closely have pointed out that the bill is written in a manner that could potentially allow discrimination beyond just towards the LGBT community. As an article in the Des Moines Register points out, for instance, business owners would possibly be able to deny services to people in interracial or inter-religious marriages.

What this bill really highlights, however, is the plain and simple fact that GOP officials aren't focusing on jobs and the economy like it promised they would during the 2010 elections. We're seeing that at the federal level in the House of Representatives where Democrats are actually writing letters to Speaker Boehner begging him to let House do something productive, and we're seeing that in state legislatures all across the country. Based on the way the GOP's leadership has functioned in recent years, however, I'm not surprised and don't expect things to change anytime soon.

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