Jeb Bush slammed for backing religious-based LGBT discrimination


Jeb Bush

As same-sex marriage becomes increasingly accepted in the US, religiously conservative Americans are responding with cynical legislation that will allow them to avoid having to accept LGBT equality.

On Monday, possible US presidential contender Jeb Bush was criticised for saying he backs religion-based legislation allowing individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.

Bush, the second son of former President George H. W. Bush and the younger brother of former President George W. Bush, was the Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. He is considering running for president in 2016.

While visiting Atlanta last week, he was asked about a bill recently passed by the Georgia State Senate that, if signed into law, would allow people to use their religion to challenge or opt out of anti-discrimination laws.

Bush appeared to back the principle behind the bill, stating that “religious freedom is a serious issue, ” and that people should be allowed to “act on their conscience.”

He went on to say that religious beliefs should be protected “as it relates to marriage equality.” Bush added that, “People have a right to do that, just as we need to be respectful for people who are in long-term committed relationships.”

Critics say that the Georgia bill, and other similar legislation, would allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples, a paramedic to refuse to provide life-saving services to an LGBT person, or a school counsellor to refuse services to an LGBT teenager.

“It’s deeply disappointing that Governor Bush won’t stand up against legislation that authorises discrimination,” commented JoDee Winterhof, Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs at Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

“We don’t need dangerous new legislation that not only allows discrimination against LGBT people, but goes even further and opens the door to allowing women and members of other religious faiths to be targeted and discriminated against as well.”

She called on Bush “to clarify and explain why he thinks it’s acceptable to expose LGBT people and so many others to the risk of discrimination.”

There are currently 70 bills pending in 23 US states that would allow discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. The HRC warned that this kind of legislation could “critically undermine the enforcement of state non-discrimination protections.”

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