Legalizing the freedom to discriminate?
In another action by the WV legislature not covered by our local "newspapers," the House of Delegates is considering a "religious freedom" bill. Yesterday they held hearings:
On Thursday morning, nearly 60 people spoke either for or against the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 4012) during a public hearing in the House Chamber.
The legislation says a business or individual can use his or her “sincerely held” religious beliefs as a legal defense in a court proceeding.
Opponents raised the obvious discrimination issue but proponents played their victim card arguing that they were the ones who were being discriminated against:
Several supporters of the bill, including Republican National Committeewoman Melody Potter, of Kanawha County, said the potential legislation is not about discrimination against the LGBT community or others.
“People of faith are the ones being discriminated against,” Potter said.
A predictable bedfellow -- guess who is supporting the legislation?
At the rally on the Capitol steps, Whitt cited “sinful and depraved” behavior as justification for the proposed law, and Carrie Bowe, a representative of state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office, cited the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage as a reason for the attorney general’s support of the bill.
(The Supreme Court's decision which allowed same-sex marriage is why Morrisey is behind this bill? Huh, I'd like to see the logic on that one. Note: Whitt is president of the Family Policy Council.)
Learning from the Indiana experience
You'll recall that Indiana passed similar legislation last year. Earlier this week the Indy Star reported that law cost Indianapolis up to $60 million in economic impact. This economic argument was not lost on WV's travel industry. As the AP reported
Hospitality groups are mounting early opposition to a religious freedom bill.
During a House public hearing Thursday, representatives from Marriott, Embassy Suites and a business coalition said the bill would drive away business.
It would let companies or people cite religious objections during various court proceedings. Critics say the bill would permit discrimination against gays on religious grounds. Lawmakers haven’t taken official action yet.
Charleston Marriott hotel general manager Ramona Jackson said the bill sends a message that West Virginia isn’t a place where all travelers are welcome.