Controversial 'Right Of Conscience' Bill Passes OK House Committee

Tuesday, February 21st 2017, 4:50 pm

A controversial bill that would allow business owners to turn people away because of ideological differences. It's now advanced out of a Senate committee.

The bill would allow business owners to turn away gay couples, for example, just because they're gay. The author of the bill says it goes much further than that. But opponents call it the most discriminatory bill in the country, and a business killer in Oklahoma.

"We have been in touch with businesses leaders in Oklahoma and around the country already and I promise you, if this bill goes forward Oklahoma is closed for business," said Troy Stevenson with Freedom Oklahoma.

Senate Bill 197 would allow business owners to turn anyone away based on their conscience. For example, the bill's author says, it would allow a Muslim caterer to turn down a job at a pork barbecue. But opponents say the bill goes much deeper than religious exceptions. 

"This says that if anybody has any belief, if their conscience tells them that they should not do business or allow an LGBTQ person or an interracial couple or a divorced person any of these folks into their businesses they can be denied," Stevenson said.

"It protects everybody's right of conscience and it prohibits the state from forcing someone to violate their conscience when it comes to marriage lifestyle or behavior. So the bill includes everybody. Everybody benefits from that bill," said Sen. Joseph Silk, R-District 5.

The bill passed in committee by a 7-to-4 margin. Opponents say if the bill becomes law they'll fight it in court.