Arizona lawmakers pass bill to allow faith-based refusal of services

PHOENIX Thu Feb 20, 2014 10:38pm EST

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona lawmakers gave final approval on Thursday to a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to customers when such work would violate their religious beliefs, in a move critics describe as a license to discriminate against gays and others.

Under the bill, a business owner would have a defense against a discrimination lawsuit, provided a decision to deny service was motivated by a "sincerely held" religious belief and that giving such service would have substantially burdened the exercise of their religious beliefs.

"The Arizona legislature sent a clear message today: In our state everyone is free to live and work according to their faith," said Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, which helped write the bill.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives 33-27 on Thursday, a day after it won similar approval in the state Senate. It will go to Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who has not indicated whether she will sign it.

The American Civil Liberties Union branded the legislation as "unnecessary and discriminatory," saying it had nothing to do with God or faith.

"What today's bill does is allow private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming," said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona.

The Arizona law is seen by critics as an attack on the rights of gays and lesbians to equality under the law at a time when same-sex marriage activists have notched several court victories in recent months.

Some 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia now recognize gay marriage in a trend that has gained momentum since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that legally married same-sex couples nationwide are eligible for federal benefits.

Since mid-December, federal judges have ruled curbs on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia, although the decisions have been stayed pending appeal. The New Mexico Supreme Court has also legalized gay marriage.

But Arizona is among more than 30 states that still ban gay or lesbian couples from marrying, by constitutional amendment, statute or both.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, a Democrat who opposed the measure, called it "state-sanctioned discrimination" that clearly targets members of the gay community.

"We're telling them, 'We don't like you,'" Campbell said, during a heated floor debate. "'We don't want you here. We're not going to protect you, we don't want your business, we don't want your money and we don't want your kind around here.'"

State Representative Eddie Farnsworth said the bill was wrongly being portrayed as discriminatory and that it only made "minor tweaks" to current state law.

"This is simply protecting religious freedom that is recognized and defended and supported in the First Amendment that the founders wanted - nothing else," he said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Clarence Fernandez)

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Comments (94)
Kenzen wrote:
Hmm, thought American was about equality? So how does one know who is gay or not gay? Appearance? How they talk? Oh, you had sex with them? They tell you that they are gay? You do not like their mullet hair cut? You just do not like them? They have a rainbow shirt on? They come in with a same sex friend and they both have wedding rings one? Two pre-teens girls come in holding hands? OH, you say you have gayder? You saw them have sex with the same sex person through their window while you watch? Some homosexuals there is no way to tell. So eventually this will end up in a civil law suit about discrimination, business will lose everything, the other person will win esp. if they are not gay or even gay.

I thought that Christians were to show love toward everybody.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV)

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:39-40 KJV)

So how do these type of laws fit in with Christ’s teaching? If you neighbor is gay do you judge and hate him? Hmm, not sure that is what Christ would say or do. So be a witness to them show compassion and loving kindness to all humans no matter who they are or represent. These laws show what the problem is with religion and not with spirituality.

Feb 20, 2014 10:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Kenzen wrote:
Hmm, thought American was about equality? So how does one know who is gay or not gay? Appearance? How they talk? Oh, you had sex with them? They tell you that they are gay? You do not like their mullet hair cut? You just do not like them? They have a rainbow shirt on? They come in with a same sex friend and they both have wedding rings one? Two pre-teens girls come in holding hands? OH, you say you have gayder? You saw them have sex with the same sex person through their window while you watch? Some homosexuals there is no way to tell. So eventually this will end up in a civil law suit about discrimination, business will lose everything, the other person will win esp. if they are not gay or even gay.

I thought that Christians were to show love toward everybody.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV)

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:39-40 KJV)

So how do these type of laws fit in with Christ’s teaching? If you neighbor is gay do you judge and hate him? Hmm, not sure that is what Christ would say or do. So be a witness to them show compassion and loving kindness to all humans no matter who they are or represent. These laws show what the problem is with religion and not with spirituality.

Feb 20, 2014 10:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Kenzen wrote:
Hmm, thought American was about equality? So how does one know who is gay or not gay? Appearance? How they talk? Oh, you had sex with them? They tell you that they are gay? You do not like their mullet hair cut? You just do not like them? They have a rainbow shirt on? They come in with a same sex friend and they both have wedding rings one? Two pre-teens girls come in holding hands? OH, you say you have gayder? You saw them have sex with the same sex person through their window while you watch? Some homosexuals there is no way to tell. So eventually this will end up in a civil law suit about discrimination, business will lose everything, the other person will win esp. if they are not gay or even gay.

I thought that Christians were to show love toward everybody.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV)

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:39-40 KJV)

So how do these type of laws fit in with Christ’s teaching? If you neighbor is gay do you judge and hate him? Hmm, not sure that is what Christ would say or do. So be a witness to them show compassion and loving kindness to all humans no matter who they are or represent. These laws show what the problem is with religion and not with spirituality.

Feb 20, 2014 10:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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