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Arizona lawmakers approve bill to allow discrimination against gays

Bill would allow businesses to refuse services on religious grounds

Republican Governor Jan Brewer is expected to sign a bill that would allow business owners to discriminate against gay people on religious grounds. Credit: Xtra file photo

The Arizona legislature passed a bill Feb 20 that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay people, as long as they claim it is because of religious belief, Arizona Republic News reports. The bill is intended to allow, for example, a wedding photographer to refuse to work at a gay wedding but could also be used to refuse gay people almost any job or service provided that a company felt “burdened” by religious duty.

The bill will now go to Republican Governor Jan Brewer for her signature.

The Arizona law is the latest in a series of what Mother Jones magazine has called “Jim Crow–style” anti-gay legislation. The Kansas legislature passed an even more extreme bill earlier this month that would have allowed public servants to refuse service to gay people. That bill died in the senate after national media backlash pointed out that even police, paramedics or firefighters would be able to refuse service to gay people.

Two bills that would have prevented gay people from suing for discrimination died in the Tennessee and South Dakota legislatures earlier this week.

Legalized discrimination bills and other sideways attacks on gay rights have emerged from Republican lawmakers after a series of federal court decisions struck down anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendments in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has joined five other state attorneys in refusing to defend state bans on same-sex marriage in court. She said Feb 20 that her state’s ban “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review.” Attorneys general in Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, California and Illinois have also opted not to defend their state bans.