News (USA)

Idaho lawmaker withdraws bill that would have allowed discrimination against gays

BOISE, Idaho — A lawmaker promoting controversial legislation to allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers based on their religious beliefs says he’ll withdraw the bill, for now.

Idaho state capitol in Boise.
Idaho state capitol in Boise.

Republican Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise says his measure was intended to protect the free exercise of religion, but was misinterpreted to be a “sword for discrimination.”

A previous hearing on his measure lasted nearly four hours and drew hundreds to the Capitol.

Luker says he respects concerns he heard and as a result plans to take more time to work on the bill, which he proposed in the wake of cases in Oregon and New Mexico where gay people who were refused service brought claims against businesses.

On Wednesday, Luker said it’s unlikely his measure would resurface this session.

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Last week, lawmakers sidetracked the measure when House Speaker Scott Bedke said it would be better to take a “thoughtful pause” on an issue that’s inflamed the passions of religious conservatives and gay rights activists.

Idaho is one of five states where lawmakers introduced “religious freedom” bills targeting same-sex couples, mostly in response to the rapid advancement of marriage equality.

Similar bills were defeated or withdrawn on Tuesday in South Dakota, Kansas and Tennessee, but a bill in Arizona is still making its way in the state legislature.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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