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Ariz. GOP Sen. Introduces Anti-Gay Bill

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Jan 16, 2014
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Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, center, listens in as Arizona Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, second left, talks to committee members Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, left, and Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, right, during a legislative committee hearing in Phoenix.
Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, center, listens in as Arizona Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, second left, talks to committee members Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, left, and Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, right, during a legislative committee hearing in Phoenix.  (Source:AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A Republican Arizona state senator introduced a measure that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, and potentiality, women and Jews if they were acting on religious beliefs, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, introduced SB 1062 recently, which would allow businesses to file civil cases to claim they have a legal right to not provide services to an individual or a group because it would "substantially burden" their freedom of religion.

The bill would effectively allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people and Yarbrough cites an incident when a court in New Mexico allowed a same-sex couple to sue a photographer who refused to take their wedding photos. Yarbrough added that his bill could also allow motels to turn away same-sex couples.

He said there are people who have religious beliefs about serving or employing unmarried women, or employing people who do not share the same beliefs. Yarbrough did say, however, that it would be difficult for someone accused of discrimination to hide behind his law because of existing laws that allow Arizona to prohibit discrimination if there is a "compelling governmental interest."

"State law already makes it illegal for the government to impose requirements on people that violate their religious beliefs," the Arizona Daily Star writes. "What’s missing, Yarbrough said, is a defense in civil lawsuits, when the fight has nothing to do with the government."

A similar measure was approved in Arizona last year but vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. The newspaper notes she canned the measure not because of the bill’s text but because she was annoyed that lawmakers refused to consider the state budget and her Medicaid expansion plan.

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