Updated Fri, Feb 28, 2014 4:55 pm
Earlier this week, the sponsors of a religious freedom bill under consideration in the Ohio Statehouse pulled that legislation. The sponsors feared the language, similar to that in a bill recently vetoed by Arizona’s Governor, could have allowed discrimination against gay people if the bill were adopted. But a group that backed the Ohio bill is upset over this action. Chris Long with the Ohio Christian Alliance says the legislation is needed to protect Ohioans from being forced to do something that is against their religious beliefs.
"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 said. "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. And so these are individuals that would be protected by this legislation from being targets of lawsuits either by individuals, institutions or entities such as even the state of Ohio where in other states have enjoined lawsuits filed by the ACLU against individuals who object to participating in this way."
Ingles: "Have there been any of these lawsuits in Ohio? Long – Not to my knowledge as of yet. There may have been but it has just not gone public yet. But we do know that there has been probing. 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."
Ingles: "Gay marriage is against the law in Ohio. In fact, anything that approximates a gay marriage is against the law in Ohio. So how could someone be sued for not facilitating a gay wedding if gay weddings in Ohio can’t exist under the law anyway?"
"Well our state constitution on marriage does describe marriage as a union between one man and one woman," Long said. "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 a federal judge may….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 - meaning it is dead - at least for now. But another bill similar to it 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 bring the bill back in the future. But if that happens, the leader of a group that wants to put a repeal of the gay marriage ban on the statewide ballot this fall is promising a fight. Ian James with FreedomOhio says his group will be working with others to make sure the religious freedom bill doesn’t come back again.
"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 said. "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. "
There are no plans, at this point, to bring the bill back before the end of the year.