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"Religious Freedom" Bill Back Before Colorado House

Colorado legislators hear a bill today that could pave the way for businesses and individuals to discriminate against people who don't share their religious views. (Colorado.gov)
Colorado legislators hear a bill today that could pave the way for businesses and individuals to discriminate against people who don't share their religious views. (Colorado.gov)
January 25, 2017

DENVER – A group of Colorado state lawmakers is hoping the third time will be the charm for passing so-called "religious freedom" legislation.

A House committee is scheduled to consider a bill today, similar to measures introduced in the past two sessions, that supporters claim is necessary to keep the state from putting a burden on a person's exercise of religion.

Daniel Ramos, executive director of the group One Colorado, said the law would effectively roll back key protections for LGBTQ and other communities.

"We too, believe that the freedom of religion is important, and that's why it's already protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution," he said. "But this law would allow any individual or any business to pick and choose which laws to follow, and claim that their religion allows them to do so."

Ramos said if passed, the law would allow a high school counselor to turn away a gay teenager seeking help, or a pharmacist to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth-control pills, by citing religious beliefs.

House Bill 1013 is co-sponsored by two Republican legislators, Rep. Stephen Humphrey of Weld County and Rep. Dave Williams of El Paso County. It is similar to controversial laws recently passed by other states including Indiana – under then-Gov. Mike Pence – and North Carolina.

Ramos said allowing businesses and individuals to discriminate against people who don't share their religious views would be bad news for Colorado's economy.

"In Indiana alone, they lost $60 million in conference revenue," he added. "And when a similar bill was introduced and being considered in Georgia, they were projecting that they would lose upwards of $2 billion in economic activity."

Ramos said the measure would allow individuals to claim that any number of laws, including child labor, domestic violence, and nondiscrimination laws, don't apply to them if they conflict with their faith.

HB 1013 is set to be heard today in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO