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The legislature finds that the United States Constitution is the supreme law of our nation, and this body has full confidence in its ability to endure all tests. Many immigrants came to our nation to escape government-sanctioned persecution of their faith. This body believes that any law which is designed to restrict the liberty of one faith tradition erodes the founding principle of religious liberty and that it is, as James Madison wrote in 1785, proper to "take alarm" at any such "experiment on our liberties." Our state has a history of embracing an individual's right to practice the faith tradition of his or her choice within the law and free of government interference. The legislature also finds that a multiplicity of religious beliefs, traditions, and heritages bring strength to our state. This body believes that it is not the role of the legislature of Washington state to disparage or marginalize any religious tradition. This body finds abhorrent all forms of discrimination, including those forms of discrimination targeting religion or belief. Our state benefits from a number of individuals and institutions whose faith motivates them to provide food to the hungry, shelter to the needy, inexpensive or free health services, and other humanitarian services. Religious leaders who facilitate conflict resolution often achieve results that ease the burdens on our courts.
new section of the Washington state law
4) Nothing in this section may burden a person or religious organization's freedom of religion including, but not limited to, the right of an individual or entity to deny services if providing those goods or services would be contrary to the individual's or entity owner's sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, ormatters of conscience. This subsection does not apply to the denial of services to individuals recognized as a protected class under federal law applicable to the state as of the effective date of this section. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, philosophical belief, or matter of conscience may not be burdened unless the government proves that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Several Republican lawmakers filed a bill Thursday seeking an exemption to the state's anti-discrimination laws just weeks after legal action was taken against a Richland florist who denied service to a gay couple for their upcoming wedding.
The bill introduced by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, would allow businesses the right to deny services or goods if they felt doing so was contrary to their "sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience."
The measure would not apply to the denial of services to people under a protected class under federal law, such as race, religion or disability.
Brown said the measure seeks to protect people or religious organizations from legal persecution. "There's a glaring lack of protection for religion in state law," she said.
Also signing on to the bill were Sens. Janea Holmquist Newbry, Mike Hewitt, Jim Honeyford, Don Benton, Barbara Bailey, Mike Padden, John Braun, John Smith, Ann Rivers, and Linda Evans Parlette.
The bill has not yet been referred to a committee or scheduled for a public hearing, and is not likely to before the regular legislative session ends on Sunday. However, if a special session is called, as expected, the bill could be heard during that time.
Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington state filed a lawsuit in response to a March 1 incident in which Barronelle Stutzman refused to provide flowers for Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed's wedding, despite the two men being longtime patrons of her shop — Arlene's Flowers and Gifts in Richland, which is in Brown's legislative district. Previously, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit in the case.
Ferguson had sent a letter in March asking her to comply with the law, but said Stutzman's attorneys responded saying she would challenge any state action to enforce the law.
Her attorney, Justin D. Bristol, has said he expects to take the legal battle to federal court and argue Stutzman's refusal of service based on the 1st Amendment's right to free speech.
While Washington voters legalized gay marriage in November, protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation were codified in 2006, in one of the first initial pushes to expand civil rights to the gay community in the state.
Under state law, it's illegal for businesses to refuse to sell goods, merchandise and services to any person because of their sexual orientation.
Josh Friedes, a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington, said that the bill seeks to undermine the state's anti-discrimination laws "and it undermines our entire approach to ensuring the equality of all Washingtonians in commerce."
"It is discrimination, pure and simple," he said.
Brown argued that the bill is not intended to undermine the law or the rights of gays and lesbians in the state and isn't a commentary on same-sex marriage.
"The citizens of the state clearly weighed in on that issue," she said. "It's intended to protect religious freedoms."
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who sponsored the civil rights expansion bill in 2006 as well as the state's gay marriage law, said the proposal seeks to revisit long settled civil rights legislation, arguing that the nation has long moved beyond that discussion.
"I don't think we want to go into our civil rights laws and decide who gets served and who doesn't get served," he said.
Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said that while he knows the bill is not likely to gain any traction in the Legislature this year, he hopes it sparks a discussion.
"The government is now saying if you have a conviction about an issue that we happen to disagree with, then you as a business owner are going to be fined or shut down because of that," he said. "People should and do have the right to their own convictions."
This is what a liberal senator from Washington State thinks of your religious liberty!
“I haven’t seen a law this backwards and mean-spirited since before the civil rights victories of the 1960s,” said Sen, Jeanne Kohl-Welles in an email blast.