An attempt to pass a law in Oklahoma that would allow businesses to refuse certain services to LGBT people has stalled, and it could be partly due to an amendment introduced by an opponent to the bill.
Earlier this year, Republican state Rep. Chuck Strohm introduced his ‘Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act’ (HB1371).
If passed, this would allow businesses to deny services to customers if they felt that such services were ‘against the person’s religious beliefs’.
The bill was aiming to allow businesses such as cake makers and florists the freedom to decline providing services for same-sex weddings.
Describing herself as ‘adamantly opposed’ to the proposed legislation is Emily Virgin (pictured), a Democratic member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
This week, Virgin introduced an amendment to the bill. In brief, the amendment stated that if you were planning on refusing to serve LGBT people on religious grounds, then you must display a public notice to this effect.
‘Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites,’ said the amendment.
‘The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.’
On her Facebook page, Virgin explained the reasoning behind the amendment.
‘This would save same-sex couples the trouble and embarrassment of going into that business just to be turned away.’
Virgin came up with the amendment after consultation with LGBT advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma and the ACLU of Oklahoma.
‘Thank you to Representative Virgin for calling out the level of segregation allowed under this legislation,’ said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma to Gayly.
‘If the state of Oklahoma is going to protect discrimination, then at the very least, businesses should be required to own their bias, and post it publicly for the world to see.’
‘If you want to discriminate under this law if it passes, then you’re legally allowed to do that, but you need to own it. You need to fess up to it,’ Rep. Virgin told kfor.com.
Yesterday, it was announced that the bill has stalled. House leadership did not take up the proposal for discussion. For it to return to the House, it would need to be added to another bill, but Virgin has indicated that if that happens, she would act again.
‘It appears that the bill is dead for this session,’ she said on her Facebook page, ‘but we will be keeping an eye out for any discriminatory legislation that might come forward in the rest of the session!’