BOISE • An Idaho lawmaker is pushing legislation that would allow businesses to deny services to gay people as long as they cited sincerely held religious beliefs.
Under the new bill, Idahoans would not lose their professional or occupational licenses if they refused to provide their services to an individual or a group because they were exercising their religion.
“We've seen the government attempt to come in and dictate who a church should hire for their personnel,” said state Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, to the House State Affairs Committee. “We’ve seen the government mandate health care which requires businesses and individuals to support paying for … contraceptions against their religious feelings.“
Under the bill, doctors could deny providing medical treatment to gay people or even unmarried mothers and not lose their medical license. The same would be allowed for teachers to deny educating one of their students if they were gay. The bill would also allow psychologists to provide faith-based services as long as they cited they were exercising their religion.
The bill does not, Luker said, protect individuals from being fired if they do choose to deny someone for religious reasons.
Luker’s bill follows last year’s New Mexico Supreme Court decision that ruled in favor of a gay couple who sued a photographer for turning down their request to take pictures at their wedding.
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The ruling has also caused Arizona lawmakers to introduce a bill similar to Luker’s but expands the religious exemption to those even without a professional license.
“We as a nation have almost divorced any association with a higher being,” Luker said.
The committee unanimously passed the bill but not without pressing Luker on what he meant by “sincerely held beliefs.“
Luker, a lawyer, responded that the phrase is found in was legal documents.
“But how do you prove your sincerely held beliefs?” asked state Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. “Are you going to bring people to court?“
“Yes, if it comes to that,” Luker said.