Here's How Religious Exemption Laws Can Hurt Women And The LGBT Community

A new report looks at just how many Americans are affected by the laws.

Forty-three prercent of Americans live in a state with religious exemption laws, which can potentially harm women and the LGBT community, according to a new report.

For its "LGBT Policy Spotlight" report released Tuesday, the Movement Advancement Project broke down the history of religious freedom laws, including recent Supreme Court rulings like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that play a role in how state and federal religious freedom laws are interpreted.

"The original federal RFRA may have been passed with good intentions, but the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law in Hobby Lobby -- alongside states’ ever-increasing roster of religious exemptions, both broad and targeted -- raise serious concerns about how these vague exemptions are being used to harm others, interfere with law enforcement, and undermine the rule of law," the report says.

Earlier in 2015, both Indiana and Arkansas passed religious freedom laws that drew criticism nationwide over concerns that they could be used as legal justification for discrimination against LGBT individuals. A Reuters/Ipsos poll from April showed a majority of Americans believe businesses should not be allowed to refuse services based on their religious beliefs.

The Movement Advancement Project's report examines how much of the U.S. population lives under potentially harmful religious freedom laws:


 (Click the map to view a larger image)

The report says the increase in these laws across the U.S. is "no coincidence," arguing the legalization of same-sex marriage and the coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act are among the reasons people are fighting to pass more religious freedom legislation. 

Read the full report below:

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