Dangerous Bill Would Allow Discrimination Against LGBT FloridiansBy Adam Polaski • October 22, 2015 • 9:40 am
Yesterday, October 21, the Florida House of Representatives introduced H.B. 401, a bill that would grant broad range to a wide array of Floridians to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. The bill would apply to businesses, individuals, health care facilities and providers, adoption agencies, and other institutions in the Sunshine State.
The bill would amend Florida’s 1998 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to declare that an entity owned by a religious institution is “not required to produce, create, or deliver a custom product or service that would be contrary to the religious or moral convictions or policies” of the institution. Essentially, the bill seeks to allow institutions to use religion as an excuse to discriminate – and it could very well be used to harm LGBT people just trying to build a family in Florida.
Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, condemned the bill yesterday. He said:
“HB 401 uses a thinly veiled guise of religion to justify denying services to people in need at hospitals, adoption agencies, and other important institutions that Floridians use every day. It’s cruel to deny any child the opportunity to be welcomed into a loving, supporting family, just because they or a parent might be gay or transgender. It’s wrong to refuse potentially life-saving medical care to a person who has been in an accident simply because they are LGBT. This bill goes too far and would make Florida a worse place for everyone.”
The freedom of religion is one of our country’s most fundamental rights. That’s why it’s enshrined in our Constitution and reflected in laws across the land – and it’s not up for debate. It’s one of the many freedoms that allow each and every American to live their lives to the fullest and advance the common good. We’ve seen these bills advance through several state legislatures in the past few years, and their effect is to undermine laws that protect all citizens. These types of “RFRA” laws typically allow anyone to challenge any state or local law that they decide they don’t want to follow, citing their religion.
Beyond the impact on the individual, RFRAs have a fiercely negative effect on state and local economies, fundamentally hurting the business environment in states. Increasingly, employers are looking to grow their organizations – small and large – in states with common-sense laws that make everyone feel protected and respected. And so if a business chooses not to locate in a state with this type of harmful “RFRA” law, the local economy sustains multiple losses – the loss of the new jobs the business would have brought to the area, and also the loss of increased economic activity and innovation that comes when you have a thriving community full of employed, engaged people.
Florida legislators should reject this hurtful bill and support comprehensive non-discrimination protections for all of its residents: No one should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love, but that’s exactly what this bill is seeking to codify: a license to discriminate.