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Arizona Republican pushes for law to legalize religious discrimination

Arizona Senator Steve Yarbrough wants to make it legal for any business to discriminate against people for religious reasons to protect them from having to serve gay people but he admits other groups could be discriminated against as well
Senator Steve Yarbrough
Photo by Arizona Senate

Arizona Republican Senator Steve Yarbrough has put forward a bill that would let any business owned by a religious person discriminate against people legally in order to protect them from having to deal with gay people.

Yarbrough says he was inspired to draft the bill after a New Mexico state Supreme Court allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to photograph their wedding.

However LGBTI people in Arizona already have no legal protection from discrimination under state law.

Yarbrough says the bill is only intended to clarify existing religious freedoms in the state - but a different version of the law, vetoed last year, had wording so vague that it could have potentially allowed people to break almost any law and then cite religious freedom.

However that was not why Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed it – she did it to punish lawmakers for refusing to look at the state budget and her Medicaid expansion plan.

Arizona is one of the Republican held states that is refusing to cooperate with the roll out of Obamacare.

Critics say even this version of the bill would allow businesses owned by religious people to discriminate against unmarried people or pregnant women or those who followed different religions to theirs.

Yarbrough says the bill is aimed at any business offering its services to the public including hotels and restaurants and says there is no ‘compelling governmental interest’ in forcing a business to serve a gay couple if there is another one willing to take their money.

An Arizona Senate committee gave initial approval to the bill last Thursday in a vote of 4 to 2, split along party lines.

The bill now heads to the full Senate after a review by the Senate Rules Committee.

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