Some States Already Have Versions of Arizona's Controversial Law

February 28, 2014

South Carolina already has the type of religious-freedom law that Arizona lawmakers passed that critics say could allow businesses to discriminate against gays.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed the bill Wednesday after political and business leaders urged her to do so, citing fears of tourism and corporate boycotts, and the possibility of losing next year’s Super Bowl if the measure became law.

South Carolina’s 15-year-old law, which few realized was on the books, is like 17 others nationwide and one approved by Congress that protects individuals or businesses’ faith practices from government intrusion, according to the Washington-based American Religious Freedom Program.

South Carolina’s law, for instance, would allow a restaurant – such as Chick-fil-A – that did not want to open on Sundays, based on religious grounds, to get a business license in a city that requires merchants to remain open all week, Gov. Nikki Haley’s office said.

But some states — including Arizona, Ohio and Missouri — have tried to amend their religious-freedom laws to extend the protection that they offer outside of government restrictions. Critics say these proposals could allow businesspeople to cite their religious convictions to refuse to serve gay couples, for example.

South Carolina does not need its current religious-freedom law since other state and federal measures protect faith-based practices, said Victoria Middleton, director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina.

The law just creates confusion, she added. “It’s unnecessary.”

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