DES MOINES — An Iowa House Republican has introduced legislation that would allow for legally protected discriminatory business practices — based on religious grounds — against those in a same-sex marriage.
The study bill, titled the “Religious Conscience Protection Act,” would allow any religious corporation, association, educational institution, society, charity or fraternal organization, or person employed by such entities, to be exempt from treating a same-sex marriage as valid, even though such marriages are legal in the state of Iowa.
They also could deny goods, services or accommodations if the marriage violated a person’s religious beliefs.
The same-sex exclusion is by itself constitutionally troubling, several legal scholars and civil rights activists said.
However, the bill is so broad that it would legalize a wide spectrum of other discriminatory acts, they said. They raised questions about whether services could be denied if, say, a Christian were married to a Jew or if a woman who is 60 married a man who is half her age and the couple could not procreate.
Anderson (R-Clarinda), an attorney and sponsor of the bill, told Register that his intent is is to protect religious liberty.
“I think what we’re trying to do is balance constitutional amendments,” said Anderson. “There is the 14th Amendment that we’ve heard a lot about. There’s also the First Amendment.”
According to the bill:
- An individual, small business or sole proprietor would not be required to provide goods or services “that assist or promote the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” This includes benefits to the spouse of an employee, housing to a married couple and reproductive services.
- People or businesses that refuse to provide services or benefits based upon religious convictions would be able to do so without facing civil claims.
Anderson acknowledged that the bill is not a priority of House leaders, and is not expected to pass the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Michael Gronstal has resisted attempts to ban same-sex marriages.
Anderson said he wants to ban same-sex marriage, “a step that would drive state policy toward responsible procreation,” he said on the floor of the House last week. He has publicly stated that he thinks that same-sex marriage is a step toward state-recognized polygamy.
Earlier this year, Anderson submitted his name for consideration as an Iowa Supreme Court justice.