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Senate panel kills Oklahoma Right of Conscience Act

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OKLAHOMA - A senate panel killed a measure that would have allowed religion to be used as justification for discrimination.

Many in the LGBTQ community came out against the bill, saying they were the target of the measure.

Allison Blaylock left the capital relieved, after the Oklahoma Right of Conscience Act died in committee.

The bill would have allowed Oklahomans to "refuse to provide goods, services or accommodations to certain groups if they were following sincerely held religious beliefs or conscience ... regarding marriage, lifestyle or behavior."

“It would have allowed for a certain small business, if they decided they do not want to consciously service me, not to," Blaylock said. "Maybe I want to buy a cake or purchase blinds for my home. I would not be able to do that if they decided that they did not want to serve me, because I was not someone they wanted to work with."

The bill was authored by Senator Joseph Silk.

It’s an issue he feels strongly about.

“The individual right of conscience is basic and fundamental," Silk said. "The minute you take that away, we are in trouble, and that’s where we are as a state."

The vote was 5-4 against the bill.

Silk says lawmakers caved to the pressure of big business.

“AT&T lobbied against it. They viewed it as an attack on the gay community, which it states in the bill it is not an attack on homosexual marriage," Silk said. "And, unfortunately, lawmaker did what a lot do, and that’s cave to the interest of special groups and lobbyist."

Those opposed to the bill say it is an attack on gay marriage and the entire LGBTQ community.

“We know it. The public knows it. It’s time to quit playing games, and they need to start admitting what they are doing," said Troy Stevenson, executive director Freedom Oklahoma. "I’m glad these senators took a stand today and made sure that didn’t happen in their state."

His group is fighting several bills this session he says are discriminatory toward gays and damaging to the state.

“Our bridges are falling apart, our students are not being educated properly, because they are having to cut funding to schools," Stevenson said. "It's time they face the economic problems that this state has and quit playing around with ridiculous legislation aimed at hurting a certain class of people."

Silk says, although this bill is dead, the ideas behind it are not.

He says he will likely introduce something similar down the road.

“What you can take away from today’s committee meeting is that state government does not believe that you should have the ability to live out your conscience in business and personal life,” he said.