As Republican-backed "religious freedom" bills continue to pop up in the nation's state legislatures, one such measure introduced in Florida last week may just be the most discriminatory yet. If passed into law, it would allow certain businesses, including medical agencies, to legally deny products and services.
The bill (HB 401), introduced by Republican State Rep. Julio Gonzalez of Venice, does not specifically target individuals based on sexual orientation, but is viewed as a reaction by the religious rightwing to recent advances made in gay rights.
Gonzalez's bill 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.
Gonzalez's bill could also be used to deny medical services under the guise of "religious freedom." There is a section under the bill that protects healthcare agencies where a facility could refuse to "administer, recommend, or deliver a medical treatment" for religious or moral reasons, except when it would endanger someone's life or potentially lead to "serious bodily injury."
Gonzalez is a physician whose campaign for State Representative was endorsed by 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio.
"This is not about discriminating," said Gonzalez told the Herald Tribune. "This is making sure the state stops, at a narrowly crafted level, from intruding into somebody's liberties."
Although Gonzalez is a Catholic, he said his personal religious beliefs were not the motivation for the legislation.