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Government and Politics


Ohio House suspends Arizona-styled religious freedom bill
The bill on serving LGBT individuals was similar to one vetoed in Arizona that gained national attention
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 
Freedom to Marry Ohio leader Ian James says they will fight the religious freedom bill if it returns.
Courtesy of Freedom to Marry
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In The Region:

Earlier this week, the sponsors of a religious freedom bill under consideration in the Ohio Statehouse pulled that legislation.

The sponsors feared the bill, similar to one vetoed this week by Arizona’s governor, could have allowed discrimination against gay people.

But Chris Long with the Ohio Christian Alliance says the Ohio bill is needed to protect people from being forced to do something against their religious beliefs.

LISTEN: LONG ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

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"It’s a bill that actually addresses a real concern for people of faith who may become targets of a lawsuit if they object to homosexual marriage in their business," Long says. "In this instance, if you are a baker and you are asked to provide baking services, a cake, for a homosexual or lesbian wedding. It’s not just servicing by baking a cake and sending it over the counter. Bakers actually have to go to the reception hall, erect the cake and actually serve it, so they are being asked to participate in the service. The same thing with a photographer. They are not doing it remotely. A photographer is very intimately involved with the ceremony. These are individuals that would be protected by this legislation from being targets of lawsuits."

Looking out for lawsuits
Long says he does not know of any such lawsuits yet, but he has seen evidence they are being considered.

"We do know that there has been probing," Long says. "For instance, churches have been asked by homosexual individuals to marry them and these churches sense that they are becoming the target of a future lawsuit. So, the threat is real. There are dozens and dozens of cases throughout the country. It’s only a matter of time before these lawsuits start in Ohio."

Gay marriage is against the law in Ohio, but Long says the judiciary could overturn the state's ban.

"Our state constitution on marriage does describe marriage as a union between one man and one woman," Long says. "However, in Virginia, that state’s constitution was struck down. Texas, Kentucky... across the country you see federal judges beginning to take the marching orders of the Eric Holder Justice Department and to start striking down DOMA’s or constitutional amendments that define marriage between one man and one woman that do not include homosexuality. It’s only a matter of time that we may wake up one morning and see that our constitutional law was deemed unconstitutional. That’s why people of faith need to find a legal protection and this law would have afforded us that." 

The Ohio legislature has shelved the bill for now, but a similar bill could come back in the future. The bill has more than two dozen lawmakers listed as co-sponsors. Long is hoping some of them will resurrect it.

Ready to put up a fight
But if that happens, the leader of a gay rights group is promising a fight. Ian James with FreedomOhio says his group will be working to make sure the bill does not come back.

LISTEN: JAMES ON BILL
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(0:20)

"FreedomOhio is going to do everything possible to make certain that the other sponsors of the bill as well as the house speaker understand the serious ramifications of this dangerous bill," James says. "There are going to be business leaders reaching out to them, there are going to be faith leaders reaching out to them. This bill is unwise, unwarranted and dangerous and it needs to be killed."

There are no plans, at this point, to bring the bill back before the end of the year.

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