Religious Freedom Bills Fail

Two GOP religious liberty bills drew strong opposition from gay rights groups and members of the business community Monday. A House committee defeated the bills after a lengthy hearing on Monday. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.


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capcovHouse bill 1171 forbids government officials from constraining the exercise of religion. Supporters say it would strike a sensible balance between religious beliefs and state interests.

“You shouldn’t have to do things and say things that are against your conscience,” said Nicole Martin an attorney who testified in support of the measure in the House State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Much of the debate centered cake baker Jack Phillips from Lakewood. He refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple citing his religious beliefs.

“The state of Colorado has utterly ignored Mr. Phillips’ first amendment rights,” said Martin.

But opponents said the bill would give people a license to discriminate, using the religion card as carte blanche.

“The bill is legally and practically unnecessary and would create rather than prevent discrimination,” said Stephanie Donner, chief legal counsel for Governor John Hickenlooper.

Business groups including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce worried it would make it more difficult for Colorado to attract a diverse and talented workforce, and send the message that the state is not collaborative.

“Where do you draw the line?” said Representative Joe Salazar (D-Thornton). Do you draw a line where someone says I’m not going to allow Mexicans in my shop because most of them happen to be catholic and I’m a protestant? Do you draw the line where someone says I think all African Americans should still be slaves because my religion says so?”

Representative Dan Thurlow (R-Grand Junction) joined Democrats to defeat the measure. Three Republicans also voted with Democrats to strike down house bill 1161. It would have protected people from facing penalties for refusing to violate their beliefs.

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