Freedom of religion is important to all of us. It’s one of our nation’s fundamental values. That’s why it’s already protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act was adopted in 1955 and is consistent with both our state and US constitutions, and does not violate the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech or religion. The existing law simply bans discrimination based on 11 protected classes, from race to religion, ensuring basic access for all people to employment, housing, and public accommodations. It requires that businesses that are open to the public treat everyone equally and prohibits discrimination.
Nothing in this legislation prevents churches or other religious institutions from practicing their faith as they see fit – including hiring persons of the same faith. The US and Pennsylvania constitutions protect freedom of religion, and no one wants to change that.
What the legislation would do is prevent taxpayer dollars from being used in a way that discriminates against people based upon who they love or the person they know themselves to be – just as it already does for 11 other protected classes for over 60 years.
The law provides that businesses which are open to the public treat everyone with dignity and respect. Open for business means open for all.
This includes wedding-related services, like florists, bakers and banquet halls. But this bill isn’t really about wedding cakes and floral arrangements. Protecting people from discrimination is about treating others the way we want to be treated. When our LGBT family, friends and neighbors walk into a place of business, they should be treated just like everybody else.
LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections will change nothing about the core American foundation of religious freedom, just like it has not on the basis of the 11 already-defined protected classes. The existing state nondiscrimination law does not tell a religious institution how to practice their religion.
This legislation has nothing to do with directing religious institutions to do anything with their religious work. Any messaging otherwise is false.
We love the First Amendment. It has safeguarded liberty and freedom in the United States since our nation was founded. Both the federal and Pennsylvania constitutions guarantee equality of all people to their fundamental rights. In fact, the first article of the Pennsylvania constitution declares that all people are “born equally free”.