Supporters of a Religious Freedom bill that would allow business owners and government officials to refuse services to gay couples believe the law is being misrepresented.
Lawmakers in the House gave final approval to H.B. 1523 Friday, by a vote of 69 to 45. Supporters of the bill say it prohibits the government from discriminating against a person’s religious belief.
However, many civil rights groups, as well as some of the state's largest industry leaders, have come out against the bill. They have claimed it discriminates against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and question community.
Republican Representative Andy Gipson of Braxton says the bill does not discriminate against anyone.
“It doesn’t discriminate, nor does it deny services to anybody,” Gipson says. “It specifically says that is a case where a person has a religious conviction, they can decline, but they must provide somebody in their office to provide that service.”
But Democrats contend the measure simply unconstitutional.
Democratic Representative Jay Hughes of Oxford believes the bill will end up costing the state big in legal fees.
“It’s void at the start, and it’s done strictly for pandering,” says Hughes. “It’s going to cost us, at a time when our budget is so week, it’s going to cost us tens-of-thousands, hundreds-of-thousands, probably going to private attorneys instead of the attorney general to defend a law that was illegal from the time it was introduced.”
The bill is likely to go before the Governor this week. He has not said publically whether he will sign the bill.