Orthodox Groups Silent on Arizona Anti-Gay Law

Mainstream Cheers Veto of Bill Allowing 'Faith' Discrimination

getty images

By Ron Kampeas

Published February 27, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

(JTA) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday vetoed a bill that would have permitted businesses to refuse service to gays if doing so would violate their religious convictions.

The Anti-Defamation League commended her for the veto, and the Jewish Community Relations Council in southern Arizona advocated against the bill.

Absent from the debate over the law, however, were the voices of leading national Orthodox Jewish groups, which is interesting because they have opposed same-sex marriage and warned that religious freedom faces threats stemming from gay marriage’s advance. More broadly, Orthodox groups have advocated against legislation that would impinge on beliefs they have nothing to do with (the smoking of peyote) and even those that they theologically oppose (denial of contraception coverage).

So what gave in Arizona? Agudah declined to comment to JTA. Contacted by JTA, Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, said that he had not closely reviewed the Arizona legislation.

But speaking broadly, he noted Orthodox advocacy in the past for the federal Workplace Religious Freedom Act, legislation initiated, incidentally, by John Kerry when he was a Massachusetts senator. That legislation seeks to protect individuals on both sides of a business equation: The client seeking a service and employees who may have a religious objection to providing it.

The act has never passed Congress, although legislation with similar provisions has been adopted in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The federal legislation does not mandate accommodation of a worker’s religious beliefs but requires a balancing test. If, say, an employer needed to staff a business on Christmas Day, he would need to show that he canvassed employees to find out whether there were any who were ready to work on the holiday. If the employer could not identify such an employee, it could require those who objected to work the day.

As an example, Diament mentioned one of the cases cited by Arizona lawmakers who backed the recent bill: A New Mexico photo studio that was sued for not shooting a gay wedding.

“What you would have had was not a situation in which the New Mexico photography company would have gotten to say ‘We won’t provide photographs for your wedding,’ but if there was an individual photographer, he might be able to bow out and a different photographer with the same company would have taken the pictures,” Diament said.

He noted that such accommodations were written into Oregon’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide. “If you are a pharmacist and you object to physician assisted suicide, the pharmacist does not have to dispense those drugs, they pass it off to another pharmacist,” he said.

There were no objections to that proviso, he said, because it was more “politically correct” to oppose euthanasia than same-sex marriage.

“The balancing should be that the people who are entitled to lawful services, whether they are a same-sex couple or a woman seeking contraceptives from a pharmacy, they should receive the services they are legally entitled to, but the person on the other side of the counter who has a conscientious objection should have their concerns accommodated as well,” he said.

“If people are more interested in a practical solution that is respectful of conscience concerns on both sides, a more commendable approach is to have individuals on both sides be accommodated as much as possible.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.