Resolution condemning Indiana's religious freedom bill fails in state Assembly

Assembly Democrats failed to bring a resolution to the floor today that would prevent the Legislature from discussing any bill similar to an Indiana law passed last month that allows businesses to deny services to individuals when serving them would go against their religious beliefs.

The resolution, which is currently in committee, would reaffirm the civil rights of Wisconsinites regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and a host of other demographics.

“I believe the state shouldn’t subject [LGBT citizens] to bigotry under the guise of religious freedom,” state Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, said during debate on the resolution.

Jorgensen’s Democratic colleagues echoed his comments and criticized Republican Representatives for their support of a 2013 resolution that they say is similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Assembly Joint Resolution 43, introduced by 25 Republican legislators last session, resolves that the lawmakers “protect the right of conscience from state action” and prohibits the state “from burdening the right of conscience unless it proves it has a compelling interest and the burden is the least-restrictive alternative.”

The resolution text is similar to the title of Indiana’s law, which says that an “action may not substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person's exercise of religion … [is] the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.”

Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics and harassing their members over a bill they say is unnecessary.

“We already have stronger constitutional language than what was proposed in the Indiana bill,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said. “We don’t have to listen to you berate individuals for whether or not they’re going to introduce a bill. You’re playing McCarthyism.”

Vos said a bill similar to Indiana’s “would not happen” in Wisconsin.

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