A Republican lawmaker in Florida has introduced a hideous “religious freedom” bill that would empower adoption agencies and certain businesses in the Sunshine State to turn away LGBT couples for ‘religious or moral reasons.’
State Rep. Julio Gonzalez filed the bill, HB 401, in response to what he views as the erosion of religious liberty caused by the advancement of LGBT rights.
“There have been various situations where there are increasing possibilities of subsections of society having their religious freedoms encroached on,” Gonzalez said. “Over time it became obvious to me we need to adopt some statutory protections.” […]
[HB 401] states that individuals, businesses with five or fewer owners, religious institutions and businesses operated by religious institutions are “not required to produce, create, or deliver a product or service” to a customer if they have a religious or moral objection. […]
The bill does not mention sexual orientation. Its wording is vague enough that it would allow businesses to reject any customer for religious or moral reasons. Asked if someone’s race could be cited as a reason to deny service under the legislation, Gonzalez said there already are federal protections to prevent discrimination based on race.
Executive director of Freedom for All Americans, Matt McTighe, released a statement on the bill’s introduction:
“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.”
Gay rights lobbyist Carlos Guillermo Smith, said Gonzalez’s bill is “sweeping anti-LGBT legislation” that is “extreme even for the extremists”:
“Bills like this threaten Florida’s tourism-based economy and could provoke an Indiana-style backlash,” Smith said. “It would be a disaster for Florida.”
Equality Florida also condemned the bill:
“This extreme bill doesn’t affirm existing law; it goes much further than that. In addition to churches, it would allow individuals, for-profit businesses, health care providers, non-profit adoption agencies and others to discriminate against anyone they want, for personal reasons.
Legal experts say this bill is even worse than the disastrous Indiana bill that sparked a nationwide backlash. Indiana’s governor called a hasty special session to repeal that costly mistake.
Not only would passing this bill tell the rest of the country that Florida is a mean-spirited, discriminatory state. It would also allow a healthcare provider to deny reproductive and contraceptive services to women; retailers to refuse service to LGBT people; a day care to refuse admittance of a child with LGBT parents, and many other outcomes we believe most people would find deeply unfair.”