ARIZONA: State GOP Rep Introduces Bill To Legalize Anti-Gay Discrimination

Arizona GOP state Rep. Steve Yarborough yesterday introduced a bill that would legalize discrimination against LGBT people on the grounds of religious beliefs.

SB 1062 would allow businesses sued in a civil case to claim they have a legal right to not provide service to an individual or group because it would “substantially burden’’ their freedom of religion. Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said the measure is aimed specifically at preventing what happened in New Mexico, where courts said a gay couple could sue a photographer who refused to take their wedding pictures. But Yarbrough said his legislation could also be interpreted to allow motels with vacant rooms to refuse to rent to gays. Yarbrough acknowledged there may be individuals who have religious beliefs about serving or employing unmarried women, or employing people who do not share their same beliefs. The legislation seeks to navigate between religious rights and the general prohibition against discrimination in public accommodations. Yarbrough, an attorney, said that can extend beyond restaurants and hotels to any business that offers its services to the public, which is how it ended up being used in New Mexico against the photographer. Yarbrough said it’s possible his proposed legislation would allow a hotel owner to turn away a gay couple without fear of suit simply because there are other nearby facilities they could turn to.

According to the above-linked source, a similar bill was approved last year but was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer as punishment to lawmakers who had not yet approved a budget. (Via JMG reader Homer)