Could Az. controversial ‘religious freedom bill’ some fear discriminates against gays come to Ohio?

Could Az. controversial ‘religious freedom bill’ some fear discriminates against gays come to Ohio?
Could a controversial bill approved by Arizona legislators that some critics say is aimed to discriminate against same-sex couples be adopted in Ohio?

Some proponents of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Ohio are hoping so, and soon.

State representatives Tim Derickson, R-Oxford and Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, introduced Ohio House Bill 376 to the Ohio legislature in December.

Supporters of the bill argue it would help protect business owners who choose to deny their services to someone because it violates their religious beliefs if adopted.

That includes, they say, instances such as those faced by Cathy Brinkman, who owns a small printing business in Evandale.

Recently when a customer wanted some racy photos of himself and his girlfriend printed, Brinkman declined.

That decision had her concerned that she might get sued because of freedom of self-expression.

“I should be able to run my business the way I see fit,” Brinkman said. “We don’t have an obligation to serve everyone.”

Opponents though believe the law is a thinly veiled attempt to allow business owners to legally discriminate against gays and other groups.

Attorney Josh Langdon, whose office handles gay rights issues, said measures like the Ohio and Arizona bills are a desperate attempt to stop the momentum of gay rights.

“I question the motives of people who bring this,” he said.

Ohio’s push comes as a firestorm of criticism erupted after Arizona’s senate approved Senate Bill 1062 Thursday and passed onto that state’s Governor Jan Brewer to be signed into law.

In many place’s Arizona’s bill reflects the language of Ohio’s proposed law word for word.

Both bills expand the “Exercise of religion means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF RELIGION,” to include “the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner (that is)  substantially motivated by a religious belief.”

RELATED: Read Ohio’s bill here

RELATED: Read Arizona’s bill here

Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy, an organization that supports the passing of the bill, says it “protects the religious freedom of every Arizonan.”

In a statement released Saturday, Feb. 22, Herrod said, “It’s a shame that we even need a bill like this in America. But growing hostility against freedom in our nation, and the increasing use of government to threaten and punish its own citizens, has made it necessary.”

“I urge Governor Brewer to send a clear message to the country that in Arizona, everyone, regardless of their faith, will be protected in Arizona by signing SB 1062,” the statement said.

In the Cincinnati area, Charles Tassell, a council member for Deer Park, made similar arguments.

Tassell continues to lobby the state house in Columbus for passage of the bill, saying recent court cases so weakened First Amendment rights for people with religious views that the additional protection for small business owners is needed.

“We should not need it, but the way things are going we do,” Tassell said.

Tassell sites legal actions against venues that do not want to host same sex receptions as examples when arguing the necessity of the bill.

“They shouldn’t be trying to restrict somebody’s religious freedoms,” he said.

Of course, in Arizona there is concern for other types of backlash, beyond accusations of same-sex discrimination, if Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer does not veto their protection of religious freedom bill.

Barry Broome, president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council sent a letter to the governor saying, “With major events approaching in the coming year, including Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona will be the center of the world’s stage. This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threat of boycotts.”

In Arizona, Gov. Brewer has until  next week to decide whether or not to sign the bill into law.

“I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with,” Brewer told CNN in Washington on Friday. “But I don’t know that it needs to be statutory. In my life and in my businesses, if I don’t want to do business or if I don’t want to deal with a particular company or person or whatever, I’m not interested. That’s America. That’s freedom.”

Supporters hope the Ohio bill makes its way out of committee and for a vote before the full Ohio legislature within the next two months.

9 On Your Side’s Scott Wegener and Scripps sister station ABC 15 reporter Josh Frigeriocontributed to this report.

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