OLYMPIA, Wash. - A bill in the state Legislature to allow business owners to refuse services for same-sex couples would give them a “license to hate,” according to one Senator. But the bill’s sponsor says it protects religious freedoms.
“This is a bill that allows bigotry,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.
The state of Washington is suing a florist in Richland for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The owner said her religious beliefs prevented her from serving the couple.
Senate Bill 5927 would allow business owners to “deny services” based on an owner’s “religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs or matters of conscience.”
“What that means,” said Ranker, “is I could literally walk into a bar and somebody could say, ‘You look gay. I’m not going to serve you.’”
The florist lives in the legislative district of Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick. Brown said the bill was written to protect freedom of religion and would not encourage businesses to discriminate.
“My children are bi-racial and so I would be the last person dropping a bill that would pose any kind of discrimination,” said Brown. “What this bill is about is just protecting freedom.”
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said the state should not force a business owner to go against their personal religious convictions.
“When you’re a business owner and you put your life, your family and your finances into a business, you have a right to choose who you do business with,” said Benton.
The bill would not allow business owners to refuse service to anyone based on race, religion or disability. Those groups are protected under federal law.