A bill filed by a group of 12 Republican state senators in Washington would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people based on religious or "philosophical" beliefs.
Earlier this year, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against a florist who said that she could not supply flowers for a gay couple's wedding "because of my relationship with Jesus Christ."
In response, state Sen. Sharon Brown (R) and 11 other of the 23 Republicans in the Washington state Senate want to legalize discrimination against gay and lesbian couples with Senate Bill 5927. The measure goes far beyond religious exceptions, allowing business to discriminate based on "philosophical beliefs" or even "matters of conscience."
"The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, philosophical belief, or matter of conscience may not be burdened unless the government proves that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest," the bill states.
The bill also notes that it does not allow the denial of services to anyone who is considered a protected class under federal law. Race, religion and disability are all protected classes under federal law, but LGBT people are not.
A 2006 Washington state law made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Last year, voters also legalized same sex marriage.
Equal Rights Washington Josh Friedes told The Associated Press that the Republican bill "undermines our entire approach to ensuring the equality of all Washingtonians in commerce."
"It is discrimination, pure and simple," he pointed out.
[Photo: Flickr/Sharon Brown]