DENVER - What is discrimination?
Is it how you define it? Your friend of opposing viewpoints? Or how the state defines the term?
We ask because a state senator in Colorado is sponsoring a bill that wants to "clarify" discrimination. State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, is the sponsor of SB17-283, "Clarify Discrimination and Right to Disagree."
"This is not meant to change the discrimination laws in the state, but it is meaning to clarify where the line should be drawn," said Lundberg.
If it sounds like a veiled religious freedom bill, Next asked Lundberg about that. Specifically, we asked if this was because of the result of the lawsuit between a gay couple and Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, which refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding.
"I like to characterize it in different terms, like I'm a book seller and I sell books, and I sell you any book, anybody who comes in, any book that I have on my shelf, I'll even order a book for you, unless you want me to get a book that I find offensive," said Lundberg. "Here's another example. A lot of stores announced that they were not going to be carrying the products of Ivanka Trump and they have every prerogative to make that decision."
He's referring to at least Nordstrom, which recently announced it was no longer selling the Ivanka Trump brand based on sales.
"The business owner needs to be able to say, this is the scope of my business practice. I do these things, these other things I don't do. I sell these products, the other products I don't sell," said Lundberg.
We went back and asked again, if this bill was to legalize the decision by Masterpiece Cake Shop.
"The short answer is 'yes.' This would protect that business owner from having their conscience violated by the state laws that have come in and said we're going to come in and tell you how to run your business," said Lundberg. "If a business owner says, I make wedding cakes, and somebody walks in and says, I want a wedding cake for something that you don't consider to be a valid wedding, then I believe the business owner needs to be able to say, I do wedding cakes for weddings, that's what a wedding cake is, I don't believe, by my values, that this is a wedding cake."
So how does this avoid discriminating against race, religion or sex? Good question. Lundberg said everyone needs to read the text of the bill.
"What is the scope of their business, what products are they going to provide? That's a very, very different issue than somebody saying, I won't do business with this person, but I will do business with that person. I think that is discrimination," said Lundberg. "I'm not trying to change that at all. It's meant to acknowledge the freedom of conscience that every citizen has, even in their place of business."
What exactly is "freedom of conscience?"
"Basic principal that our nation was founded upon that allows everyone to choose their own path, rather than be forced into a group think by the state," said Lundberg. "That's what we're looking for is the clarity necessary to allow discrimination to operate without unnecessarily walking onto the freedom of conscience that every citizen should possess as well."
Similar bills have created some wide-ranging impacts nationwide.
The NCAA just ended its boycott of North Carolina after the state backed off its so-called bathroom bill that restricted transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The NCAA almost boycotted Indiana, the state it's headquartered in, when then-Gov. Mike Pence signed a religious freedom bill into law.
"I'm well aware that there has been some real overreaction when some states have gone down roads similar to this," said Lundberg. "I want it to be crystal clear that we are talking about not discrimination, but the freedom of conscience that even a business owner should have."
Democrats in the House are likely to kill this bill if it makes it out of the Republican-controlled Senate. If you want your voice heard on the definition of discrimination, this bill is heard at the Capitol on April 12 at 1:30 p.m.
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