Last week Georgia showed us how a bill allegedly designed to provide an “extra layer of comfort” to pastors and churches gets turned into a license to discriminate. Now Florida is poised to follow our neighbor down this dark path.
We’ve known all along that the so-called “Pastor Protection” acts filed in both Georgia and Florida were allegedly designed to reinforce that pastors can refuse to marry same-sex couples or anyone else if the marriage would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Then last week, just as we expected, Georgia added a sweeping religious exemption amendment to their bill to allow any person, business, or taxpayer-funded organization to refuse service to potential customers by claiming a religious objection.
And now we learn the Florida Senate will likely consider similar amendments when they hear our state’s bill on Tuesday.
The Georgia amendments allow taxpayer funded adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to place children in desperate need of homes with LGBT families. State-funded homeless shelters could turn away same-sex couples and their children.
In Florida, at every committee stop, those speaking in favor of the bill made crystal clear the deep homophobia that motivates them.
But the discrimination they legalize is actually much broader. Businesses could also turn someone away because they are black, Muslim, a single mother, or anything else they say offended their religious beliefs.
We’ve already seen the enormous damage this type of legislation can do to a state’s reputation and economy.
So on Tuesday we could find out if our legislators will follow Georgia and Indiana and bring shame and condemnation to our state. Or if our elected leaders will stand up to discrimination and stop this utterly unnecessary and deeply discriminatory legislation in its tracks.
CEO, Equality Florida