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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 6, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 06
What we're up against: Majority says businesses should be free to turn down LGBT customers
Section One
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What we're up against: Majority says businesses should be free to turn down LGBT customers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Even though most Americans believe that Gay and Lesbian couples should be allowed to marry, an even larger majority also believes that businesses should be free to turn down LGBT customers.

A new poll by Associated Press/GfK shows that Americans support marriage equality by a 44% to 39% margin, but nearly 25% of those who support same-sex marriage also think that wedding-related businesses should be free to deny services to Gay and Lesbian couples.

In all, 57% of the poll's respondents said the religious views of business owners should trump the right of same-sex couples to services.

About half said that public officials like judges and county clerks should be free to decline issuing marriage licenses to couples their religions find objectionable.

One of the most controversial pieces of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - and one that is still challenged by Rand Paul and other so-called libertarians - was Title II, which prohibited discrimination by privately-owned businesses if they provided public accommodations.

'Public accommodations' obviously includes hotels, motels, bars, and restaurants, but it has been extended to include retail businesses that are open to the general public.

Unfortunately, LGBT Americans are not protected by the Civil Rights Act, but many state laws do prohibit discrimination against LGBT residents.

In Washington, Attorney General Bob Ferguson believes that the state Consumer Protection Act does require businesses to provide goods and services to LGBT customers, and on that basis his office is prosecuting Baronelle Stutzman, a Kennewick florist who refused to provide flowers for a Gay wedding.

On January 27 officials of the LDS (Mormon) Church said they were prepared to support anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT Americans if they were paired with broad religious exemptions that allowed officials and business owners to opt out.

James Esseks, who directs the LGBT project of the American Civil Liberties Union, replied that the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom 'does not give any of us the right to harm others, and that's what it sounds like the proposal from the Mormon church would do.'

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