AP Poll: Businesses should not be allowed to deny LGBTQs service, But VA GOP fights on
A new Associated Press poll has found a majority of small businesses believe denying services to LGBTQ people should not be legal.
According to the AP, 80% of the 500 small businesses they surveyed said they supported a federal law protecting LGBTQ shoppers. The small business ownership was pretty evenly split Republican or Democrat. About 2/3rds said they had no internal policy in place protecting LGBTQ employees or shoppers, but 60% told the news wire agency it was the right thing to do.
The question comes on the heels of a judge granting two lesbians $135K damages after a cake shop in Oregon refused to bake their cake, and publish their person information online in an attempt to further harass the couple.
A 2007 Oregon law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but when Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer walked into Sweet Cakes Bakery and asked for a cake for their wedding, they were denied. When they filed the complaint, the company received a copy of the report and published it, along with the Bowman-Cryer’s personal information. While the LGBTQ community lashed out at the bakery, the couple was similarly harassed almost daily.
Similarly, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig are in the middle of a legal battle against Masterpiece Cake shop in Colorado. CO has a longstanding law against denying services to LGBTQs, so when Masterpiece said they would not make Mullins and Craig a wedding cake, the couple filed suit with the help of the ACLU.
CO’s Civil Rights Commission took on the case, and handed down a ruling supporting the gay couple. Masterpiece now has to comply with the state policy, and must file reports assuring the commission they hadn’t turned anyone else away because of their sexual orientation.
About 20 states protect LGBTQ employees from such discrimination (Virginia not included) but fewer states, like Colorado and Oregon, have specific laws in place protecting from such discrimination in privates business services (again, Virginia is not on that short list.)
Discriminating against LGBTQs in services is blanketed in the concept of “religious freedom,” or the idea that serving sexual minorities will violate a individuals right to such freedoms.
“With increasing frequency, we are seeing individuals and institutions claiming a right to discriminate—by refusing to provide services to women and LGBT people—based on religious objections,” writes the ACLU on the issue. “Religious freedom in America means that we all have a right to our religious beliefs, but this does not give us the right to use our religion to discriminate against and impose those beliefs on others who do not share them.”
The best examples of these religious freedom laws going awry are Indiana’s attempt to pass such a law, where the governor then had to scramble to change the language before several large companies canceled events or threatened to move their business out of state if the law stayed on the books.
Here in Virginia, we have two laws which allow for religious discrimination – one if genetic counseling, and the other in state-funded adoption agencies.
Despite public backlash to such laws, Virginia’s GOP has already promised to fight for “religious liberty” in the 2016 General Assembly session.
“It is paramount that the religious liberties of all Virginians be respected,” wrote Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell in a statement on his website released shortly after SCTOUS legalized same-sex marriage nationally late last month. “While we must and will abide by the law, we must also ensure that the God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion is not diminished in light of this ruling. The House of Delegates will fight to uphold this principle.”
“The ACLU is emboldened by their huge infusion of cash and are spending millions on their new ‘People Power’ campaign.”March 17, 2017
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