Senate Bill 180 is terribly conceived, terribly written, and subject to all the objections that have been so clearly stated by Herald Leader commentators, such as Marilyn Daniel.
Our Senate looks ridiculous for having passed it, and I am confident that the House will kill it. But that won’t make the problem behind this bill go away.
That problem is that we don’t have federal law which would unequivocally prohibit the kinds of discrimination that SB 180 means to protect. We can start fixing this right away by enacting the Equality Act of 2015.
For those unfamiliar with it, this is a bill currently in Congress that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include measures explicitly protecting members of minority groups not specified in the existing Civil Rights Act.
We should all be in touch with our federal representatives to urge them to support the Equality Act. The impetus on the part of many to attempt to use the law to protect discrimination against citizens on the basis of religious liberty needs to be unequivocally rejected nationally. It needs to be made clear in federal law that this is a country that ensures the equal respect in the law for all persons.
Insofar as our laws allow individuals (and groups of individuals) to provide goods, services, employment, housing, and public accommodations it needs to be made clear that no discrimination will be protected by the law. If your religion leads you to discriminate in any of these areas, you will need to give up your religion or give up the support of the state. It just might be time for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that makes this unequivocal once and for all.