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Biker Discrimination Bill Faces Long Odds

DENVER (AP) - Biker clubs say they're unfairly thrown out of hotels, restaurants and stores because of how they dress.

But a Colorado bill that would ban businesses from discriminating against leather-clad motorcyclists faces long odds when it comes up for its first hearing Wednesday.

The measure would add "unconventional attire" to the state law that bars discrimination in public accommodations. That would put biker gear alongside such protected categories as race, sex and religious affiliation.

"It's a First Amendment issue," said Ray Hoskinson, a Denver retiree and a member of a local chapter of the Veterans of Vietnam America Motorcycle Club. "They tell us we can't come in because of what we're wearing on our backs, when we fought and died for that First Amendment right."

As proposed, the bill would not cover any unusual dress; just clothing that "indicates participation in motorcycling." So businesses that ban athletic garb or restaurants with a coat requirement would not be affected.

Business dress codes can run into tricky legal ground if they appear aimed at a protected group such as a certain ethnicity or religion. Hoskinson said innocent motorcyclists are often unfairly considered part of a criminal gang and need similar protection.

Hoskinson said "not every biker is a troublemaker."

The sponsor is a Denver Democrat who is challenging an incumbent Republican congressman. State Rep. Joe Miklosi says he is not proposing the measure to get attention but to help constituents who belong to biker clubs and say they are being singled out unfairly.

"I'm motivated by doing the right thing," Miklosi said. "They're being discriminated against."

Miklosi's bill is inspiring more snickers than consideration, however.

"That's the goofiest bill I ever heard of in my life," said Republican Rep. Jim Kerr, who is chairman of the committee that will decide the fate of the biker bill Wednesday. "If I have a business or something and I don't think it's appropriate to have guys in leather jackets or something, now I have to serve them? I don't think so."

The GOP-controlled House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee is known for rejecting Democratic proposals.

Miklosi concedes that his proposal faces long odds. But he didn't seem fazed by how other lawmakers are reacting to the idea.

"This bill, whether it passes or not, will do a service. It will bring attention to these veterans who are experiencing discrimination at extremely high levels," Miklosi said.

LINK: House Bill 1128

- By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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