New Hampshire House Panel Considers Bill Giving Christians 'License to Discriminate' Against Gays
New Hampshire HB 1264, which is being dubbed the "license to discriminate" bill, had a hearing before the Judiciary Committee yesterday, the Eagle Tribune reports:
The bill would put an exemption in state marriage law. The proposed text says no person, including a business owner or employee, should be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges for wedding services in "violation of the person's conscience or religious faith." The bill also would protect against lawsuits arising from refusal to provide those services. [The bill's sponsor Frank Sapareto (pictured, below)] acknowledged the sponsors oppose gay marriage. "Our definition of marriage is heterosexual," he said.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person, including a business owner or employee thereof, shall be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request is related to the solemnization, celebration, or promotion of a marriage and providing such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges would be a violation of the person’s conscience or religious faith. A person’s refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such person.
Sponsors say they aren't confident the state adequately protects clergy from being forced to officiate at gay marriages. However, "clergy are covered explicitly in the original New Hampshire marriage law," as well as under the federal Constitution, Warbelow said.
Sapareto said he expects the legislative debate to be over whether the bill should protect businesses. "I think it should," he said. The bill would let caterers, wedding photographers and restaurants discriminate against couples, Warbelow said.
Zack Ford at Think Progress LGBT writes: "Given the bill doesn’t even specify 'same-sex' marriage, it would hypothetically protect the right of 'conscience' to discriminate against any kind of marriage, including interracial, binational, and interdenominational couples. For this reason, it’s likely this bill would be preempted by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, among other nondiscrimination statutes."