States map 2015 for blog Written by Don Byrd

Last week, lawmakers in New Mexico introduced House Bill 55. The bill would amend the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the state’s Human Rights Act in a potentially troubling way, by triggering religious freedom protections not only when the government restricts a person’s religious exercise but also when any person restricts another person’s religious exercise.

Amending “government agency” to “person” seems intended to allow anyone to refuse to provide service or goods if doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. The bill would consider any act of a person or government agency which “require[s] a person to perform an act or provide or receive a product, good or service where that act conflicts with that person’s sincerely held religious belief” to be a “discriminatory action.” 

It further specifies that the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which provides nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation may not be used to:

burden a person’s free exercise of religion by requiring the person to provide a service or to conduct business in a manner inconsistent with adherence to that person’s sincerely held religious belief unless that adherence is based on race, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, physical or mental handicap or serious medical condition;

These changes would seem to expand the reach of the law beyond the balanced protections offered by the federal RFRA law. You can stay up to date on state RFRA measures like this one with my handy State RFRA Tracker.