By Matthew Meyers
As many readers know, Arizona came close to enacting a bill that would permit business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian consumers, so long as that refusal arises from their religious beliefs. The Arizona Legislature passed the bill, but Governor Jan Brewer vetoed it. The conflict surrounding whether Governor Brewer should veto the bill illustrated the contentious divide between people on both sides of the debate. It was not only a political debate; people disputed the scope, language, and meaning of the bill (text of the bill here).
Constitutional law professor Michael Curtis considered these issues in advance of the Arizona bill, in an article published in Volume 47 of the Wake Forest Law Review. Analogizing discrimination based on sexual orientation with racial and gender discrimination, Professor Curtis makes the case that broad exemptions based on religious beliefs would be problematic. He writes:
This will reinforce the caste system, encouraging self-deception and dissemblance by gays and making it more dangerous and painful for gays to come out. Our common basic interest in truth and honesty support dismantling this caste system.
I encourage readers to check his article out (PDF is here), since this debate over a religious exemption is sure to continue in the coming months and years.