Rep Lynn Luker, R-Boise, presenting HB 407 this morning, said, “It corrects a defect in our religious freedom restoration act. … This bill makes the application consistent, regardless of the parties who are involved.” He said Idaho’s existing law allows people to use religion as a defense against a government action, but not to use it in private-party disputes involving a government action. “That’s a defect that was brought out in a New Mexico case recently,” he told the House State Affairs Committee.
That New Mexico case involved a wedding photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex marriage ceremony, and was penalized under that state’s prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, noted that numerous Idaho cities have passed local anti-discrimination ordinances for sexual orientation. “Would this bill undo those ordinances that had been passed?” she asked. Luker responded, “The answer is no.” He said current Idaho law already lets people cite religion as a defense if a city prosecutes them under a local anti-discrimination ordinance.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said, “There’s a huge chilling effect on them relying on the law and obeying the law, because they can get sued. … Wouldn’t that impact the enforceability of local anti-discrimination regulations?”
Luker said,”I don’t see that as an issue. If a person is being burdened in their exercise of religion based upon a government created policy, then they should have a right to raise that issue. And so I guess in that sense, this allows that, yes.”