The beginning of the New Year also means the beginning of legislative sessions in the 50 states. Now is the time to check up on your state representatives and senators and see what they are up to. This map will tell you when your state’s legislature convenes.
Two important bills to keep an eye on during your state legislative sessions in 2015 are changes in nondiscrimination laws and religious freedom bills. Now that judges have required many states to legalize gay marriage these two legal changes will mean a lot more. A few states already have nondiscrimination orders that include homosexuality and gender identity. You can check the information about your state here.
Non-discrimination laws that include homosexuality have caused most of the problems for wedding vendors in various states. It was these laws that made it so Elane Photography had to pay a large fine for refusing to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony. It was these laws that convinced the Washington State attorney general to file a lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman for refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding. It was these laws that caused a lawsuit for the Colorado Baker, and made him have to provide sensitivity training for all of his employees. It was these laws that fined farm owners for refusing to hold a same sex marriage ceremony in their own home.
Non-discrimination laws that include gender identity are typically called bathroom bills. This change in law allows people to use which bathroom and other facilities according to the gender they feel, rather than the gender they are. This forced a university to allow an older man to expose himself to girls as young as six at their swimming and shower facilities.
These additions to non-discrimination laws need to be opposed. They sound good. The law will be masked with words like “equal housing” and “equal employment” opportunities. Most people agree that everyone should be able to hold down a job and rent a home. However, these two little changes in law end up denying religious freedom and the right of conscience to small business owners as well as causing problems for public bathrooms and shower facilities.
Religious Freedom bills will be popping up here and there. When federal judges began legalizing gay marriage, many states were then left without any particular marriage laws. In those states churches and ministers have no legal protections. A single lawsuit could enforce ordained ministers and religious buildings to hold or conduct gay marriages. Laws need to be made to protect churches and ordained ministers. Many states may also want to make laws that will protect small business owners from lawsuits, and schools from curriculum changes to include alternative families and lifestyles. It would be a good idea to contact your representatives and senators and ask what they plan to do to protect religious freedom during the 2015 legislative session.