Arizona House Approves Bill Allowing Refusal Of Service To Gays Based On Religious Beliefs
The Arizona House voted on Thursday to approve legislation that would allow business owners to use their religious beliefs as a legitimate reason to refuse service to gays and lesbians. The approval went through with a vote of 33-27 with only three Republicans choosing to vote against the bill.
It now heads to Republican Governor Jan Brewer for signature.
According to The Associated Press:
The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. It also allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of their religion.
Interestingly, Republican lawmakers defend the bill arguing that it has nothing to do with discrimination.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough described the legislation as a First Amendment issue:
"This bill is not about allowing discrimination," Yarbrough said. "This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."
Democrats disagree arguing that it's a clear attack on the rights of gays and lesbians and that Arizona will face repercussions similar to those that it dealt with following its controversial immigration legislation that it passed in 2010. That was viewed by many to be racially motivated and discriminatory.
Democratic minority leader Rep. Chad Campbell says, "This bill is about going after the rights of the LGBT community in Arizona. This is going to be horrible for our economy."
The argument has fallen on deaf ears amongst Republicans. According to AP:
Republicans said it was simply an added protection for the faithful in the state who disapprove of gay marriage and want to be able to reject participating.
"Please, I will accept you because you are a child of God, I love you because you are a child of God," said GOP Rep. Steve Montenegro. "But please don't ask me to go against my religious beliefs."
Gov. Brewer has five days to sign House Bill 2153.