Pennsylvania Republican celebrates MLK Day with proposal to legalize discrimination

A Republican lawmaker in Pennsylvania is seeking to invalidate the state's nondiscrimination law by adding a faith based amendment that would allow discrimination for religious reasons. According to RH Reality Check, state Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R) proposed the amendment on Monday, the federal holiday observing the birthday of slain civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Philly.com wrote that under Denlinger's proposed Freedom of Conscience Amendment, "employers, store owners, realtors, motel managers, etc., could deny jobs, groceries, homes or rooms to anyone (tall, short, pregnant, Catholic, Jewish, gay, Goth, Democrat, newspaper columnist) offending their beliefs. Just as long as those beliefs are 'sincerely held.'"

In a memo circulated on Monday, Denliger wrote, ""Specifically, I plan to propose a new section in Article I - the Pennsylvania 'bill of rights' - that will prohibit government from punishing an individual or entity if the individual or entity makes hiring or other employment decisions, or provides services, accommodations (including housing accommodations), advantages, facilities, goods or privileges based on sincerely held beliefs."

The arch conservative state politician's inspiration for the conscience exemption arose out of his efforts to block the reproductive health mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Denlinger is close friends with a Mennonite family that runs a lumber company.

Conestoga Wood Specialties is located in Denlinger's district, and its hyper-religious owners want to block female employees from receiving free birth control as part of their health insurance coverage -- as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Denlinger decided that the religious exemption should be extended to all matters in the state that infringe upon Christians' beliefs in any way.

Philly.com reported that Pittsburgh Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel called Denlinger's amendment "patently absurd."

Pennsylvania Republican House leadership declined to comment on Denlinger's amendment proposal. The 10-year state House veteran said that next year, he intends to run for state Senate in order to have "greater impact" on the state's laws.

[official image of Rep. Gordon Denlinger via PA House of Representatives]