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Arizona Legislature passes controversial anti-gay legislation

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Religion Today reports that the Arizona State Legislature, "has passed a religion bill that would allow individuals and businesses to use religious beliefs as defense against a lawsuit."

The bill, prompted in part by the example of a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage was promoted by the Center for Arizona Policy and Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative advocacy group.

The measure has received extensive criticsm. The editors of the Arizona Republic wrote, "that increasingly recognize gays and lesbians as equal and worthy human beings. Those individuals have a right to their opinions. They have a right to follow whatever faith they choose. But using religion as an excuse to codify discrimination is wrong."

Governor Jan Brewer has five days to sign or veto the legislation. She told CNN, "I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don't work with. But I don't know that it needs to be statutory. In my life and in my businesses, if I don't want to do business or if I don't want to deal with a particular company or person or whatever, I'm not interested. That's America. That's freedom."

Arizona Senate Democratic Leader Anna Tovar said, “SB 1062 permits discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. With the express consent of Republicans in this Legislature, many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation. This bill may also open the door to discriminate based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”

Similar measures have been attempted in Kansas, South Dakota Tennessee and Idaho. None of those measures have become law.

The L.A. Times reported that Democrat Chad Cambpell of Phoenix, the House minority leader, tweeted after the bill passed: “The world is upset with how Russia has treated gay rights...I think it's time for that same anger to be directed towards AZ.”

Rocco's Little Chicago Pizza took a different approach and posted a sign that said "We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators." [Boston.com]

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