Supporters of a religious freedom bill in the state Legislature are pushing back against recent criticism. The legislation is meant to protect religious practices against state and local government interference.
Opponents of House Bill 5958 say it would make it easier for people and businesses to discriminate. For example, they claim emergency medical workers could legally refuse to treat LGBT people.
Douglas Laycock, a religious liberty scholar at the University of Virginia’s law school, says that’s not true.
“(Similar laws in other states) certainly have not been interpreted in crazy ways that produce the kinds of problems that we’re now hearing about from opponents of the bill,” said Laycock on a conference call with reporters Monday.
“Nobody’s making those kinds of claims. It’s hard to imagine anyone ever would. No judge would accept such a claim. And you’re required to give emergency medical care by federal law, and state law couldn’t change that anyway.”
The future of the bill is uncertain. The state Legislature meets for just three more days in 2014. Bills that don’t pass before the end of this week could be reintroduced next year