Ohio house bill would allow businesses to deny marriage services to same-sex couples

WATCH: Controversial bill introduced in Ohio

OHIO (FOX19) - A bill introduced this week by Ohio lawmakers has continued the debate over same-sex marriage.
The language of the proposed bill reads that "a business is not required to participate in a ceremony creating a union between two persons of the same sex if such participation violates the business's right of conscience or freedom of religion."
In the bill, a "ceremony" is defined as including "any activities relating to participation in creating a marriage between two persons of the same sex."  It further defines "participation" as including "the provision of goods and services."
This came on the heels of a Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

"There's a constitutional right, in their view, of homosexual marriage to be legal in all 50 states.  They didn't address the issue, to my knowledge anyway, about what businesses or clergy are required to do or not required to do," said Rep. John Becker (R) – Union Township.

Becker is a co-sponsor of House Bill 296 that aims to help define that. The bill was introduced by state representative Ron Young.

"It's a matter of protecting businesses who want to be protected and protect their religious beliefs," Becker told FOX19 NOW.

Only introduced days ago, there is plenty of opposition to the bill.

"There are so many protections already provided for religion in our country, namely the first amendment.  So, this bill really is unnecessary.  It's unsafe, and it's unfair," said Steve Newsome with the Human Rights Campaign.

The bill, if passed, would allow businesses to say no to anything tied to same-sex marriages.

Those businesses would be free from civil or criminal liability, according to the bill. 
"There's a lot of people out there of multiple faiths that believe homosexuality is wrong, and they don't want to participate in it.  The idea is that they should have the right to say no," Becker said.

Other states, including Indiana, have passed similar legislation
In House Bill 296, the way it's written, it promises that "the exercise of rights under this section is not an act of discrimination."

"Businesses should be able to provide business to people equitably.  The only thing that House Bill 296 does is just double-down on discrimination," said Newsome.
Becker acknowledged that a denial of services could cut into the bottom line for that particular business.
"The idea is that they should have the right to say no and simply not participate.  That's a financial loss for them.  I don't
think we're talking about a lot of people that are in this category, but the people who are need to be protected," he said.
The bill still has a long way to go.  Becker now expects it to head to the rules committee.

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