Appalling Idaho Discrimination Bill Withdrawn

With a whole bunch of bills that give people the right to discriminate against LGBT people circulating in many states, Idaho had the absolute worst. The sponsor of the bill has now withdrawn it, saying it was being “misconstrued” as discriminatory, but Mark Joseph Stern describes just how extreme it was:

The first of Idaho’s anti-gay bills is a close copy of Kansas’. Under the guise of “free exercise of religion,” any private employer or business may refuse service to gay people—not just gay couples, but any individual whom a business owner suspects to be gay. As in Kansas’ bill, the law applies to both private employers and government workers. A restaurant, a hotel, or a movie theater will be permitted to turn away gay people—or perhaps simply put out a sign stating “No Gays Allowed”—as will a DMV, a county clerk, or a police station. Individuals need only state that serving gays violates their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and they will be exempt from any lawsuits. And, as in Kansas’ bill, a gay person who does bring suit will not only lose but be forced to pay his opponent’s attorney fees.

But the second proposed bill goes much, much further than that. First, it outlaws any ENDA-style LGBT protections in the state of Idaho, which might seem superfluous since Idaho provides absolutely no anti-discrimination protections for gay people on the state level. But several municipalities have passed LGBT anti-discrimination statutes—and this, it seems, is too much for Republicans in the statehouse. The new bill explicitly revokes any municipal LGBT anti-discrimination statutes by allowing individuals with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to simply ignore them with impunity. A city ordinance banning housing or employment discrimination for gays, the bill holds, would be void, for it would “burden a person’s exercise of religion.”

Then comes the second bill’s sledgehammer, the section that could bring Idaho deep into a realm of discrimination not seen in the United States since the darkest days of racial segregation. Again in the name of “free exercise of religion,” the bill forbids any “occupational licensing board or government subdivision” to “deny, revoke or suspend a person’s professional or occupational license” for denying service to gay people.

This measure might seem mild on its face, but its true scope is absolutely jaw-dropping. Under the bill, a doctor may refuse to treat gay people and be protected from losing his license—even if the American Medical Association requires nondiscriminatory treatment. (The bill’s language is so broad, in fact, that a doctor could also legally deny treatment to single mothers.) A schoolteacher or college professor can openly order gays out of her classroom—even if her school has a policy of equality. Banks and law firms will be forbidden from requiring LGBT inclusiveness. The bills meddle with basic principles of free association, ripping from private organizations the ability to write their own rules. Under the proposed law, not a single group in the state of Idaho will be permitted to require the equal treatment of gays.

The second bill would have been struck down by the courts immediately, I’m sure, but it’s instructive to think that this is how far the bigots will go.

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  • petemoulton

    You can’t scare me, Ed. I live in Arizona. We’ve got our own toxic bigots.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    Ed, it is very important to point out that these bills do NOT just target just LGBT: they provide a convenient hammer that people can use for any kind of discrimination, as long as that discrimination can be couched in terms of religion.

    Does your religion have racist teachings (Odinism, Christian Identity, Black Muslims, etc.)? You are free to refuse service to people with the “wrong” skin color or ethnicity.

    Does your religion have sexist teachings (pretty much all of them)? You are free to refuse service to people with the “wrong” gender.

    Does your religion teach that non-believers must be avoided (again, pretty much all of them)? You are free to refuse service to people with the “wrong” beliefs.

    Most of these bills have also been written to place an individual’s rights ahead of the rights of an employer. If you have an employee who asserts a religious right to preach to customers, you will have a major legal fight on your hands if you try to fire her, reprimand her, cut her hours or otherwise take action. Same thing with a racist employee, or one who refuses to deal with “shameless” women who dare to show their faces in public.

    These bills may be motivated by animus towards LGBT, but their scope is far broader than that.

  • peterh

    “…any individual whom a business owner suspects…”

    Guilt by supposition or wishful thinking is not only discriminatory but would be, in this case, legally sanctioned witch hunting.

    (emphasis above added)

  • http://pandarogue.blogspot.com Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @Gregory:

    Exactly.

  • D. C. Sessions

    “My religion requires that I, and all who represent me, treat others as we would be treated ourselves. It also requires that we heal the sick, even though they are sinners. As a result, I cannot employ people who refuse to treat the sick or otherwise treat people badly. So since your sincerely held religious beliefs don’t permit you to comply with mine, one of us has to go. And I own the business, Mr. Jones. I’m sure some other pharmacy will hire you despite your limitations.”

  • Erp

    The scope is broader but is limited by Federal protections. So discrimination on the grounds of race or religion would still be illegal. Sexual orientation, however, is not federally protected.

    Fortunately the pushback against these measures seems to be pretty strong once people began realizing what was happening. I think Arizona is the closest to becoming law and even the Republicans there are beginning to have second thoughts.

    Idaho has been arresting protestors (trespass) who are advocating adding sexual orientation to the State’s anti-discrimination law (“Add the Words”).

  • steve84

    There is a significant number of white supremacists in Idaho. They would have loved that.

  • raven

    Since when did xianity devolve down to hating gays? These days it seems to be the center of their religion. And this is relatively new, in the last decade or two.

    Gays are barely mentioned in the bible which is a thick book, maybe two or three places.

    And gays are right up there with nonvirgin brides, sabbath breakers, false prophets, adulterers, heretics, apostates, atheists, and disobedient children.

    I’m getting sick and tired of xians who don’t even know their own Cthulhu dammed mythology. If xians refused to associate with sinners, they wouldn’t associate with anyone. According to them, everyone is a sinner. And jesus said in the NT, hate the sin, love the sinner and judge not lest you be judged.

  • petemoulton

    Erp: “Second thoughts?” The Arizona rethuglicans never had first thoughts.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @Erp #6 – The problem is that states are tasked with the job of enforcing federal law. If the state ties its own hands….

    If any of these laws manages to go into effect, it will be righteous mess, and the fallout will not be limited to just LGBT.

  • raven

    I’m getting sick and tired of xians who don’t even know their own Cthulhu dammed mythology.

    Xianity fails on many levels. One of them is their magic book, the bible.

    1. They never read it and have no idea what it says.

    2. Which is OK , because it really is a kludgy book of fairy tales, mythology, and atrocities when it isn’t boring.

    3. What they do is just hold it up as a magic Talisman or Idol.

    It’s primitive superstition mixed with cargo containers of hypocrisy.

  • Pteryxx

    So, that leaves Arizona’s bill at the front of the pack, with the Kansas bill (temporarily?) stalled, Oregon’s anti-celebration initiative still being worked on, and Utah’s bills yet to be introduced. The Oklahoma and Hawaii bills still seem to be under consideration – boycotting Hawaii could really get major. Mississippi, I’m still searching for information. Ohio, Nevada, Maine, Tennessee, and South Dakota all have bills that are dead now, assuming they stay that way. (Midnight motorcycle safety bills anyone?)

    sources: MSNBC, MoJo, Box Turtle Bulletin

  • cptdoom

    … it is very important to point out that these bills do NOT just target just LGBT: they provide a convenient hammer that people can use for any kind of discrimination, as long as that discrimination can be couched in terms of religion.

    As Erp pointed out at #6, except for sexual orientation, all the forms of discrimination allowed by these laws are blocked by federal statute. How convenient it is, then, that these laws will only be effectively used against gays and lesbians. It almost seems like they’re designed to do just that.

  • Pteryxx

    (Trying again with the links defanged…)

    So, that leaves Arizona’s bill at the front of the pack, with the Kansas bill (temporarily?) stalled, Oregon’s anti-celebration initiative still being worked on, and Utah’s bills yet to be introduced. The Oklahoma and Hawaii bills still seem to be under consideration – boycotting Hawaii could really get major. Mississippi, I’m still searching for information. Ohio, Nevada, Maine, Tennessee, and South Dakota all have bills that are dead now, assuming they stay that way. (Midnight motorcycle safety bills anyone?)

    sources:

    www. msnbc.com/msnbc/states-push-anti-gay-bills-will-they-pass

    www. motherjones.com/politics/2014/02/gay-discrimination-bills-religious-freedom-jim-crow

    www. boxturtlebulletin.com/2014/02/20/62644

  • D. C. Sessions

    The scope is broader but is limited by Federal protections. So discrimination on the grounds of race or religion would still be illegal.

    Trouble is, the business is responsible under Federal law. Refuse to serve blacks, hispanics, etc. and the business gets slapped with a sanction. On the other hand, the clerk who actually ignored Corporate policy is untouchable under Idaho law and can keep on telling guests “we don’t serve your kind here.”

    The Party of Personal Responsibility scores another win.

  • Pteryxx

    Found the Mississippi bill which is being processed through a House committee now. Part of the text (bolds mine):

    (c) “Exercise of religion” means the practice or observance of religion. “Exercise of religion” includes, but is not limited to, the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

    (d) “State action” means the implementation or application of any law, including, but not limited to, state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, or any other action by the state, a political subdivision of the state, an instrumentality of the state or political subdivision of the state, or a public official that is authorized by law in the state.

    (3) (a) State action or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to that person’s exercise of religion in that particular instance is both of the following:

    (i) Essential to further a compelling governmental interest;

    (ii) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

    Bill status page with links to text

  • Artor

    I’d like to note that it’s been a full 20 years now since I got the fuck out of Idaho. It’s amazing how much I don’t miss it. I’ll also note that our favorite radio host, Bryan Fischer, lives in Boise, where I grew up.

  • Erp

    @#10 I’m not saying that some would not try using the law to discriminate against a federally protected group but it should be a slam dunk in court. It does however make it easier for them to justify discrimination while skirting the protected classes (e.g., my religion prohibits me from serving women who aren’t dressed modestly).

    Georgia Equality btw is calling out people to protest/lobby today and tomorrow against the Georgia equivalent. Is there a central site collecting information on all these laws and their statuses?

  • Pteryxx

    Erp, I haven’t found any central site yet, I just did brute-force searching. What’s happening in Georgia?

  • marcus

    Raven @ 11 “It’s primitive superstition mixed with cargo containers of hypocrisy.”

    So. Stealing. This.

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    The ones who blather about “special rights” for LGBTQ people are the same ones targeting LGBTQ people for “special treatment”. No surprise there. They can’t win the argument and the facts don’t agree with them, so they resort to legalizing violence.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @Erp #17 – To my knowledge, the original jurisdiction of federal courts is quite limited, and generally applies only when the US government itself is a party or involves a federal agency (mail fraud, for example.) In discrimination suits, the matter must typically be filed in local court (municipal or county) then brought to the state on appeal, THEN to federal on appeal. It can take years and quite a bit of money before things get that far.

    A federal court will occasionally take discrimination case, if the case involves questions of constitutionality and that, therefore, the US government is an involved third-party: I believe this was done in the south to implement Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Acts. It is an iffy proposition, though, as we have seen with how long it has taken the federal courts to hear cases against state DOMA laws. I would like to think that the District Court of Kansas or Idaho would intercede against these laws, but there is no guarantee that they would. And until it comes before a federal court, the fact that race, gender and religion discrimination are illegal under federal law remains irrelevant if local and state courts decline to enforce federal law.

  • Michael Heath

    Let’s be clear here, these aren’t coming from a fringe wingnut group. It’s state legislators advocating for this shit, people who were elected in their district. They are representative of their base, even if they can’t pass these bills at a state-wide level.

    This is a fine example of how bigotry remains with us but has gone under cover. This is how conservative Christians vociferously deny being racists, bigots, or misogynists, while supporting racism, bigotry, and misogyny.

  • Alverant

    I think we all know the moment someone tries to use this law to justify treating a conservative christian poorly, then the same people who supported the law are going to go ape-shit. For example marital status is not a protected class AFAIK so someone could refuse service to people they know are divorced, a group that would include many of the bill’s supporters.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @ Raven

    1. They never read it and have no idea what it says.

    In truth, they do read it. They read it all the time; they can quote it, ad nauseum. They have bible studies and people read it on their own. Some go cover-to-cover once a year or more. The problem is that the tools that they have for interpreting what they read are seriously flawed. They’ve been taught to interpret the immediate text in front of them and to not think about any other parts that might contradict. They’ve been taught that anything that is confusing or contradictory is a flaw in their interpretation, not a flaw in the document. They’ve been told what the interpretation is; thinking for themselves is seriously frowned upon.

    A number of people have described the bible as a literary Rorshach test. It’s ideal for the readers to project their own desires and biases onto.

  • raven

    In truth, they do read it. They read it all the time; they can quote it, ad nauseum. They have bible studies and people read it on their own.

    Some groups might do that.

    1. A lot of xian groups don’t though. The RCC resisted having the bible translated into modern languages. They burnt one of the first translators, Tynsdale, at the stake. The didn’t want people reading it in English.

    2. My natal Protestant group didn’t discourage it. But they didn’t encouage it either. For the best of reasons. They were progressive benign xians and the bible, especially the OT is anything but that.

    3. What I’ve seen from the fundies. They have a list of a few dozen or hundreds of proof texts. These are quote mined and taken out of context. They know them well. They have no idea what the other 99% of the bible says.

    If you say that you are supposed to stone disobedient children to death like it says in Deuteronomy, they look blank. They’ve never even heard that.

    4. Someone not so long ago ran a test of biblical knowledge. The atheists scored the highest.

    5. We see it on Freethoughtblogs all the time. A lot of atheists know the bible very well and most of the xians don’t know what is in it at all.

  • freehand

    ArtK: They’ve been taught that anything that is confusing or contradictory is a flaw in their interpretation, not a flaw in the document. They’ve been told what the interpretation is; thinking for themselves is seriously frowned upon.

    .

    If I might add: the Southern Baptists reject the claim that they interpret the bible at all. They will tell you that they “just read it as it is”. They lack introspection; they cannot understand that they interpret everything they look at, even a rock held in the hand. They claim to be individualists, yet harshly punish any deviation from the herd.

    .

    As a kid I was baffled and disturbed by adults who thought that they could read something without interpreting it.

    .

    And I can affirm that some in the SBC read the bible from cover to cover, but only see 1% or so of it. I read it cover to cover several times* but I saw what some of it actually said. Even with a kid’s eyes, reading it with an open eye was …unsettling.

    .

    .

    * It was that or listen to the sermon.

  • demosthenesofathens

    It seems to me that you could discriminate against anyone you wanted on any grounds (irrespective of Federal law) provided you claimed you “suspected that they are gay”.

  • Friendly

    3. What I’ve seen from the fundies. They have a list of a few dozen or hundreds of proof texts. These are quote mined and taken out of context. They know them well. They have no idea what the other 99% of the bible says.

    If you say that you are supposed to stone disobedient children to death like it says in Deuteronomy, they look blank. They’ve never even heard that.

    Actually, often they *have* heard of those sorts of texts, but they insist that they have to be “taken in context” and “interpreted in the light of the whole Bible”; what this usually means is that any embarrassing, inconvenient, or downright stone evil parts of the Old Testament that their denomination doesn’t practice have “been fulfilled” (i.e., been superseded and become happily ignorable) by the “New Covenant” of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection and of the New Testament. (I find it grimly amusing that even one of the Ten Commandments — “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” — is often ignored as having “been fulfilled,” but not a single solitary Old Testament rule about sex ever falls in that category.) Of course, anyone can freely quotemine any verse or piece of a verse that seems to say something positive or at least inoffensive, regardless of whether the context supports that happy interpretation or not, and the vast majority of Christians will have no objection at all. Cue NonStampCollector’s “Context” video.

  • raven

    or downright stone evil parts of the Old Testament that their denomination doesn’t practice have “been fulfilled” (i.e., been superseded and become happily ignorable) by the “New Covenant” of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection and of the New Testament.

    Yeah I’ve seen that. Even though jesus claims he didn’t do that several places in the NT.

    Then they turn around and quote the OT rules whenever they want to. That is where stoning gays, disobedient children, adulterers, heretics etc.. is found.

    After a while, you realize they are all cafeteria xians. And the bible is a giant Rorschach Inkblot that means whatever you want it to mean.

  • gardengnome

    If you can’t discriminate against blacks, gays, women, people of other faiths, foreigners etc. just who can you discriminate against?

  • opie

    If we combine this bill with the old trope that “atheism is a religion”, we could all move to Idaho, set up atheist-only towns, discriminate against the Christians (as they hold belief that are antithetical to our religion), and live peaceful, wingnut-free lives.

  • dingojack

    OT, but interesting.

    I found this in the local rag.

    It seems that businesses in Arizona are not supporting anti-LGBT legislation* because they fear it will hurt their bottom line. And when that’s hundreds of millions of dollars (across the state as a whole) that’s quite an impact.

    Dingo

    ——–

    * in fact some are saying they will happily serve LGBT customers

  • leonardschneider

    I’ve had my own religious beliefs ignored and abused for years. My faith requires that all Evangelical churches have a minimum of three (3) stencils of Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls sprayed on the church buildings. All stencils must be a minimum of 36″ in height; two must be visible from the nearest public roadway. The paint used must be of sufficient contrast to the building. If the church is unable to locate a stencil of Bubbles*, one of Buttercup will suffice, but must be a minimum of 42″ in height, and sprayed with glow-in-the-dark paint.

    And who is anyone, especially lawmakers in Idaho, to denigrate or question my faith? They cannot deny the demands of my religion just because they don’t understand it. To deny my rights — which require huge stencils of Bubbles and many cases of Krylon — is to deny the rights of all people of faith.

    * I am able to supply to any religious institution the required stencil. The cost is $24.95 plus shipping.

    However, I question the Godliness of any church which does not already have a Bubbles stencil on hand. Such lack of preparedness, in my eyes, borders on heresy.

  • Pteryxx

    Adding to the roundup: Indiana just had a religious discrimination bill withdrawn: Source

    The committee narrowly approved the provision on Monday, slipping it into an unrelated bill and quickly stirring controversy on social media.

    Within a few hours, House Speaker Brian Bosma announced the measure would be sent back to Ways and Means for further discussion. By this morning, the panel quickly decided to remove it.

    and here’s word on the Georgia bill under consideration: Source

    The law would override nondiscrimination laws that are currently in place, such as Atlanta’s municipal statute outlawing discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of their orientation or gender expression.

    Georgia’s law — like Arizona’s — does not mention same-sex couples specifically, leaving open the possibility of discrimination against unwed mothers, divorced people or any other person a religious individual might object to. The Arizona state House and Senate both passed that state’s anti-LGBT law and the bill is currently waiting to be ratified by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R).

    The law was sponsored in Georgia by a coalition of Republican state House members and two Democrats, who have since had their names removed from the bill. Rep. Mack Jackson (D) of District 28 was one of the bill’s sponsors.

  • Pteryxx

    Further on the roundup – word today *was* that Mississippi had removed the discrimination language from its state seal bill, but bloggers on the ground say that isn’t true.

    Deep South Progressive: (bolds mine)

    The bill, obtained by Deep South Progressive, still says that state action cannot “compel any action contrary to a person’s exercise of religion” and continues to define “exercise of religion” to mean “the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief.”

    Those key parts of the bill, which LGBT activists feared would legitimize discrimination by businesses that claim “sincerely held religious belief” as the motivating factor, remain unchanged. That’s contrary to previous reports that said the bill had been amended to only include the section that would add “In God We Trust” to the Mississippi state seal.

    So basically it’s still a Motorcycle Bill situation. I have no way to confirm the amended text – Mississippi’s legislature site (here)has not updated it.