Back in April of 2015, when in the wake of marriage equality, panicked right-wingers were introducing religious freedom bills all over the country, Watermark asked when Florida would jump on the bigoted bandwagon.
Frankly, we’re surprised it took this long, but it’s official – state representative Julio Gonzalez (R-Sarasota) filed the “Protection of Religious Freedom” bill in the Florida House Oct. 21, 2015.
Here’s the summary: Provides immunity from liability for health care facility, health care provider, person, closely held organization, religious institution, business owned or operated by religious institution, or private child-placing agency that refuses to perform certain actions that would be contrary to religious or moral convictions or policies.
In other words, if approved, HB 401 would allow doctors to refuse to treat gay people, adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples, and pretty much any business to discriminate against gay people, as long as the business owner says it’s against their religious beliefs to do business with gay people.
The bill wouldn’t greenlight discrimination against just gay people, either – the wording is broad enough that it lets any business discriminate against anyone for any reason at all – race, gender, disability, whatever – as long as the business owner says it’s against their religion.
EQFL executive director Nadine Smith released a statement:
“Freedom of religion is fundamental — so important it is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution as it should be.
But 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.
At Equality Florida we believe that freedom of religion is important. We also believe that most religions care more about loving your neighbor than discriminating against him. Faith leaders of all denominations have stood with us because they agree.
We look forward to working with the faith community and our many other allies to defeat this horrible No good bill.”