How Does Florida Law Stack Up versus Federal Law When an Entity Refuses to Participate in the Selling of Goods or Services on Moral or Religious Grounds?

Sun, Jan 17, 2016

Family Law

119699295_4a5e802004_oSay what? What does this mean? What does Florida think about merchants refusing services on moral or religious grounds? Some might think that a shopkeeper or service provider can refuse service to anyone they want. After all, there is the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” sign, right?  Then there are discrimination laws. How do those laws factor into refusal of services? Is every establishment regulated by something like that? In addition, what is considered discrimination in the world of commerce?

Well, that’s all pretty complicated. A popular reason for why this question has come about is the refusal of photographers, bakers, caterers, or planners to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. You’ve probably seen this in the news—it is happening in many different states. Baker A refuses to make the wedding cake for a couple because they don’t believe in same-sex marriage. Baker A says they can refuse the service to whomever they want, although the prospective customers don’t think that is true. Both cite freedoms… freedom of religion for the baker and freedom of choice and protection from the law for the couple getting married.

How does Florida feel about these issues? Same sex marriage is legal in Florida. That is clear. So, can a baker refuse to bake a cake for a same sex couple because they don’t believe in it? Hold it—this just in; Florida has to be a little different in its scenarios, since it is Florida after all. Florida reports a case where a baker is being threatened because she refused to put an anti-gay marriage statement on a cake. Details here. However, we digress.

So, what does Florida law say about refusing services based on religious or moral grounds? Well, not much so far, it seems. However, a few Florida legislators created House Bill 101, which proposes that certain establishments and business can refuse service to the LGBT community if they object on moral or religious grounds and be protected from liability when doing so. This law would go much further than wedding services; it could even extend to adoption or health services. This is a very controversial proposal in many circles for many reasons.

Florida is not the only state considering this type of legislation. It will be interesting to see how this issue develops throughout the United States.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, family law, real estate, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

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