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Arizona: Lawmakers pass religious freedom bill viewed as anti-gay

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Lawmakers in Arizona passed a bill on Thursday that would allow businesses the right to refuse service to customers that violate their religious beliefs. According to a report by Reuters on Feb. 20, the bill is being criticized because it could be used as a defense for business owners to discriminate against gays and others.

Gay rights activists see this bill as clearly an attack on LGBT rights and equality under the law and a step back for equality in the state of Arizona despite the progress that has been seen across the country, particularly with recent court victories concerning marriage equality rights and benefits.

The passing of the new bill, described as “unnecessary and discriminatory” by the American Civil Liberties Union, passed the state House of Representatives by a vote of 33-27 a day after being approved by the state Senate. The bill will now hit the desk of Republican Governor Jan Brewer. There is no indication on whether or not she will sign the bill. Either way, there will be some backlash.

Supporters of the bill such as Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, feels that the legislature sent a message with the passing that everyone in the state of Arizona are “free to live and work according to their faith.”

In an argument against the bill, Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, states that the language of the bill promotes discrimination because it allows “private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming.”

Although the bill is being defined as a protection of the First Amendment right of religious freedom, it is also being labeled as “state-sanctioned discrimination” by House Minority Leader Chad Campbell who opposed the bill. According to Campbell, the message that is being sent to members of the gay community is that “we’re not going to protect you, we don’t want your business.”

Again religious freedom verses equal rights has hit the battle table. This time religious freedom is just a signature away from being victorious.

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