Legislation proposed in Washington state this week would allow businesses to deny service to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population and others, based on religious differences.
Under the terms of the bill, businesses in the state could refuse service to anyone whose religious or philosophical beliefs differ from their own. They could not, however, refuse service based on areas protected under federal law, which does not include the LGBT community.
The legislation was sparked by a lawsuit filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union against a florist in Richland, Wash., who, based on her religious beliefs, denied service to a gay couple who were getting married, The Associated Press reports.
State Sen. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick), the lead sponsor of the bill, told The Associated Press that religion needs to be protected by the state government.
"There's a glaring lack of protection for religion in state law," Brown said.
The portion of the state's non-discrimination statute that Brown seeks to amend includes sexual orientation, but is limited to specific areas and does not include service in businesses. The areas protected include employment, hotel stays, the purchase of real estate and insurance, and the use of credit cards.
It is unclear if Brown's proposals would now allow hotels to deny rooms to LGBT individuals. Brown was not available for immediate comment.
In her legislation, Brown writes that many people come to the United States to escape religious discrimination and her bill is a way to preserve religious freedom.
But opponents of the legislation, including Equality Washington, noted that Brown's bill is seeking to create a new class of discrimination in the state instead.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Richland, Wash. as Richmond, Wash. An earlier version also misspelled Sharon Brown's first name.