A Republican Lawmaker in Pennsylvania is seeking to nullify the Civil Rights Act in the State by adding a faith based amendment allowing employers and providers of goods and services to discriminate on the basis of ‘sincerely held beliefs’ – this would allow those employers opposed to birth control provisions within the Affordable Care Act to avoid fire or not hire women on the basis of their use of birth control.

H001State representative Gordon Denlinger (pictured left) proposed his amendment on Monday, the federal holiday observing the birthday of American civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.  But Denlinger’s dream is to unpick the legal fabric of civil rights that MLK and millions of others painstakingly sewed into the constitution over generations.

In a memo circulated on Monday, Denlinger stated:

”Specifically, I plan to propose a new section in Article I – the Pennsylvania ‘bill of rights’ – that will prohibit government from punishing an individual or entity if the individual or entity makes hiring or other employment decisions, or provides services, accommodations (including housing accommodations), advantages, facilities, goods or privileges based on sincerely held beliefs.”

If we compare Denlinger’s amendment to the Civil Rights Act, you can see this amendment would breach it:

“All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

It’s not a ‘Bill of Rights’, it’s a removal of the rights of employment, accommodation, service provision and more besides, to placate the bigotry of one group.  It can be summed up a single sentence:

We want the right to curtail the rights of others.

The Daily News writes:

Under this proposal, employers, storeowners, realtors, motel managers, etc., could deny jobs, groceries, homes or rooms to anyone (tall, short, pregnant, Catholic, Jewish, gay, Goth, Democrat, newspaper columnist) offending their beliefs. Just as long as such beliefs are “sincerely held.”

Arch conservative Denlinger’s inspiration for the amendment came from his failure to block the reproductive health mandate in the Affordable Care.  Delinger happens to be close friend with the uber-religious Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, who wish to block female employees from receiving free birth control as part of their health insurance coverage – as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

After failing to secure the block for his arch conservative supporters, Denlinger is coming at the ‘problem’ from another angle.  Instead of barring female workers from accessing birth control, how about giving bosses the right never to hire them at all?  Or fire them if they attempt to use their rights?

In fact, it kills off a whole host of problems for bigoted employers.  Your workers are beating up on a gay employee? Fire the gay employee and never hire another one.  Don’t want to pay maternity leave? Fire female employees who become pregnant.  Are you a white supremacist who feels degraded serving black people?  Just deny them service.  The whole point of the Civil Rights Act was to make bigotry a problem for the bigot – not those they wanted to vilify, judge and exclude.  Denlinger and his cohort wish to reverse that situation.

Philly.com reported that Pittsburgh Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel called Denlinger’s amendment “patently absurd.”

Pennsylvania Republican House leadership declined to comment on Denlinger’s amendment proposal. The 10-year state House veteran said that next year, he intends to run for state Senate in order to have “greater impact” on the state’s laws.

This guy isn’t fit to run a bath, let alone a state.



About The Author

Kerry-anne Mendoza is a writer, blogger and activist. She is the author of the Scriptonite Daily blog which explores matters of current affairs, politics, economics and ideas. She is also a contributor to New Internationalist, openDemocracy, Trebuchet Magazine, the Occupy News Network and others. She is based in the UK, and left her career as a Management Consultant having held senior positions in banking, local government and the NHS to be part of the Occupy Movement. She has since worked as a writer and campaigner for social, economic and environmental justice.