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Marriage Equality

Antigay Legislators Not Giving Up on 'Turn Away the Gays' Bills

Antigay Legislators Not Giving Up on 'Turn Away the Gays' Bills


With national marriage equality on the horizon, antigay lawmakers are seeking new ways to discriminate against same-sex couples.

It's a particularly unpleasant time to be a homophobic elected official. Not only are marriage bans falling across the country, but antigay animus, once considered a safe political position, is increasingly becoming a liability.

Case in point? Just look at Jeb Bush's two-stepping efforts to backtrack on the Republican Party's entrenched antigay positions to become a viable candidate for president in 2016.

In response, legislators who previously championed marriage bans are now adopting a more subtle tactic: proposing laws that penalize gay couples for marrying or state officials for allowing those marriages.

Several states have pursued these "turn away the gays" laws in the last year, with varying success: Mississippi passed a so-called license to discriminate law in April that allows businesses to reject customers on the basis of their marriage. But similar laws failed to pass in Arizona, Georgia, Oregon, and Idaho.

Indiana is the latest state to jump on this bandwagon, with a

proposal from Republican state senator Scott Schneider. His bill, which may be introduced as early as this week, would allow Indiana businesses to refuse service to people who are deemed to offend the "deeply held religious convictions" of the business owner, pharmacist, or state employee. As is generally the case, Schenider has framed the bill as a matter of "religious freedom," though he has yet to indicate exactly which passage of the Bible addresses cake-baking, floral arrangements, or refusing to fill a prescription for a customer because the medication does not comport with the pharmacist's particular faith.

The bill would also allow adoption agencies to deny children access to gay and lesbian foster parents, even if they are legally married.

Various studies by the Williams Institute estimate that marriage equality contributes millions -- and sometimes tens of millions -- of dollars to a state's economy. So far, no one has calculated the financial impact of legislation that would allow businesses to "opt-out" of that economic boost.

Indiana has had marriage equality since October 6, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to review a ruling that overturned the state's marriage ban.

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Matt Baume