Aug Sept 2016
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Oklahoma Senator: Not All Businesses Have to Serve LGBT People

Oklahoma Senator: Not All Businesses Have to Serve LGBT People

Oklahoma state Sen. Joseph Silk, who last week said LGBT people “don’t have a right to be served in every single store,” is not only refusing to apologize for that comment, he’s voicing that sentiment even more intensely.

Silk made the original remark to The New York Times for a story that was published Friday. He was discussing a bill he introduced this year that would allow religious entities or businesses “operating consistently with sincerely held religious beliefs” to deny service to customers who offend their beliefs — without facing legal consequences for discrimination. There has been a flurry of similar legislation nationwide, with sponsors having in mind wedding-related businesses that may not want to serve same-sex couples. Such a bill has become law in Mississippi.

Silk told the Times he has “homosexual friends,” but he said the LGBT movement is “challenging religious liberties and the freedom to live out religious convictions.” Business operators, he said, “need to have the ability to refuse service if its violates their religious convictions.”

He responded to the outcry over his Times quotes by posting a statement over the weekend on his campaign website, which remains active months after last November’s election. “Yes I did say that homosexuals do not have the right to be served in every store, just as I do not believe that I, my family, or anyone else have the right to be served in every private business,” he wrote. “The right to provide services should be the decision of the business owners. We need to keep our country free and stop this radical, intolerant, movement.” 

He also said, “People have a right to be homosexual and I will always protect that. However that right does not give them an excuse to trample another person’s right to live out their religious beliefs in their place of business.

“The problem with the current LGBT movement is that they have zero tolerance or consideration of other peoples rights, and yes they are a threat to our freedoms and liberties in the United States and Oklahoma," Silk continued. "I am not questioning the rights of the LGBT movement, I believe they have the right to live how they want to live. They, on the other hand, are launching a massive campaign that is attempting to strip other people’s individual liberties away if they hold different beliefs ... this is complete intolerance.”

The Human Rights Campaign called Silk out, with legal director Sarah Warbelow issuing this statement today: “Senator Silk may see himself as a crusader, but the argument he is making actually supports undermining the state and federal laws that desegregated lunch counters, ensured guide dogs would be welcome in retail shops, and guaranteed every American equal access to our shared public spaces. There’s no legal basis for Senator Silk's assertions, they are rooted entirely in dislike for a particular group of people, and that is a terrible way to make policy.”

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