The recent defeat of the “religious rights” bill in Augusta was appropriate, since it is in accord with the Equal Rights Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which already protects people from arbitrary discrimination.

That the vote was strictly along party lines was no surprise, since the Republican Party is an active supporter of conservative Christian morals. It is entirely likely that this bill will be revived another year.

If so, there should be an amendment requiring all such businesses to post at their entrances a sign that informs the public that “they have a discriminating policy based on their religious beliefs.” The public has a right to know. It’s sad that such a sign would be needed even in some churches.

Arizona’s governor just vetoed a “Christian shield” bill allowing business owners to cite religious beliefs to discriminate against gays – refusing to bake cakes for lesbian and gay weddings, for example. This is the first of 10 such proposed bills in Republican-controlled states.

In a recent “Dear Abby” letter, a couple who had retired to Tampa was quickly welcomed to neighborhood gatherings. Two couples in their new neighborhood were gay – one male, one female.

When it was the newly retired couple’s turn to host, they did not invite the gay couples because they did not approve of their lifestyle choices. They had moved from a conservative community where people, if “different,” kept to themselves. Since then the newcomers have been excluded from neighborhood gatherings.

Abby said it appears they would be happier in a less integrated neighborhood surrounded by people who think the way they do, adding: “But if you interact only with people like yourselves, you will have missed a chance for growth, which is what you have been offered here.”

Gene Proctor

West Bath