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Religious Freedom Bill (Az)


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From the Associated Press:

Religious freedom bill riles gay rights supporters

By BOB CHRISTIE

Associated Press – 50 mins ago

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Legislature gave final approval Thursday evening to legislation that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays, drawing backlash from Democrats who called the proposal "state-sanctioned discrimination" and an embarrassment.

The 33-27 vote by the House sends the legislation to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and puts Arizona back at the forefront of a polarizing piece of legislation four years after the state enacted an immigration crackdown that caused a national furor.

Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona's plan is the only one that has passed. The efforts are stalled in Idaho, Ohio and Kansas.

Republicans stressed that the bill is about protecting religious freedom and not discrimination. They frequently cited the case of a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to take wedding pictures of a gay couple and said Arizona needs a law to protect people in the state from heavy-handed actions by courts and law enforcement.

The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. It also allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of their religion.

The legislation prompted a heated debate on the floor of the House, touching on issues such as the religious freedom, constitutional protections and civil rights.

Opponents raised scenarios in which gay people in Arizona could be denied service at a restaurant or refused medical treatment if a business owner thought homosexuality was not in accordance with his religion. One lawmaker held up a sign that read "NO GAYS ALLOWED" in arguing what could happen if the law took effect, drawing a rebuke for violating rules that bar signs on the House floor.

Democrats also said there were a host of other scenarios not involving sexual orientations where someone could raise their religious beliefs as a discrimination defense.

The bill is backed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. The group says the proposal is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts and simply clarifies existing state law.

"We see a growing hostility toward religion," said Josh Kredit, legal counsel for the group.

All but three Republicans in the House backed Senate Bill 1062 Thursday evening. All three House Republicans who broke ranks said they had problems with the proposal, though none elaborated at length.

"I disagree with the bill," said Rep. Ethan Orr. "I think it's a bad bill."

The two others were Reps. Heather Carter and Kate Brophy McGee.

The Senate passed the bill a day earlier on a straight party-line vote of 17-13.

Brewer doesn't comment on pending legislation, but she vetoed a similar measure last year. That action, however, came during an unrelated political standoff, and it's not clear whether she would support or reject this plan.

The legislation comes also as an increasing number of conservative states grapple with ways to counter the increasing legality of gay marriage.

Arizona's voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage as a state constitutional amendment in 2008. It's one of 29 states with such prohibitions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Federal judges have recently struck down bans in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but those decisions are under appeal.

Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough called his proposal a First Amendment issue during the Senate debate.

"This bill is not about allowing discrimination," Yarbrough said. "This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."

Democrats say it is an outright attack on the rights of gays and lesbians that will reverberate through the economy because businesses and tourists will avoid Arizona like they did after the passage SB1070 in 2010 that cracked down on immigration.

"This bill is about going after the rights of the LGBT community in Arizona," said Rep. Chad Campbell, the Democratic minority leader. "This is going to be horrible for our economy."

But Republicans said it was simply an added protection for the faithful in the state who disapprove of gay marriage and want to be able to reject participating.

"Please, I will accept you because you are a child of God, I love you because you are a child of God," said GOP Rep. Steve Montenegro. "But please don't ask me to go against my religious beliefs."

The bill is similar to a proposal last year brought by Yarbrough but vetoed by Brewer. That legislation also would have allowed people or religious groups to sue if they believed they might be subject to a government regulation that infringed on their religious rights. Yarbrough stripped a provision from the bill in hopes Brewer will embrace the new version.

Civil liberties and secular groups countered that Yarbrough and the Center for Arizona Policy had sought to minimize concerns that last year's bill had far-reaching and hidden implications. During the Senate debate Wednesday, Democrats said the bill could allow people to break nearly any law and cite religious freedom as a defense.

Yarbrough called those worries "unrealistic and unsupported hypotheticals" and said criminal laws will continue to be prosecuted by the courts.

Rep. Chad Campbell of Phoenix, the Democratic minority leader, said during debate that gays and lesbians across the country would get the message that they're not welcome in Arizona.

"We're telling them, 'We don't like you. We don't want you here. We're not going to protect you," he said.

But the House sponsor, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, said the bill had been blown out of proportion.

"We're making some tweaks here because of what's been going on in other states where people have been punished for their beliefs," Farnsworth said.

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, also said the Democrats were making too much of the bill's effect.

"Sometimes people's rhetoric tends to inflame instead of explain," Biggs said. "And I would suggest if there is going to be a backlash because of 1062 ... it will because of the intemperate and inaccurate rhetoric."

I wonder if LDS leadership would advocate for such a bill.

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Didn't the leadership of the church recently (as in the last couple of years) champion an anti descrimitory law in SLC?

I saw this article earlier and have to say the law makes me very uncomfortable. I can understand trying to protect people from being forced to be involved with specific issues which go against their religious beliefs but this law seems much to broad and sweeping. There is much too much room to descriminate.

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Didn't the leadership of the church recently (as in the last couple of years) champion an anti descrimitory law in SLC?

I saw this article earlier and have to say the law makes me very uncomfortable. I can understand trying to protect people from being forced to be involved with specific issues which go against their religious beliefs but this law seems much to broad and sweeping. There is much too much room to descriminate.

Yes, I know the church did do that. I hope nothing changes it. The gay community would definitely not be treated as equal citizens. I see desegregation in the future, or signs prohibiting them from using someone's facilities, if this continues.
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Does it specify they can refuse any service just because someone is gay or does it have to be a service that involves homosexual behaviour? For example the medical treatment...could someone refuse to take a homosexual's appendix out or might it be limited to refusing to help with fertility treatments for a gay woman attempting to become pregnant?

Or a restaurant...refusing to serve a couple they knew were gay from something besides their public behaviour as opposed to refusing to cater a reception celebrating a gay marriage.

Does the law distinguish between the two?

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Does the law distinguish between the two?

Should that make a difference, in your view...? If two women or two men hold hands in a restaurant---an outward display of same-sex behavior---should a server be allowed to refuse to serve them, and have the couple kicked out of the restaurant by the manager--because they "were acting gay, which violated [the server's and manager's] religious beliefs"....?

If a Mormon couple were discussing a missionary farewell or their temple marriage in the same restaurant, should the Baptist server and manager be allowed to likewise refuse service to said couple, and kick them out of the establishment...?

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I think the case should be yes in both. It would prove he was a jerk but I don't believe jerks should be prevented from demonstrating their natural state through laws in most cases. Better that society use education to change attitudes and if that doesn't work, then social and economic pressure rather than legal. Let the store be picketed or in some other fashion let the refusal be publicised so the owner has to deal with the consequences of his behaviour.

If people are protected from themselves, they will rarely learn or change.

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I don't see how this law will stand up in court against federal discrimination laws.  Even though no one has ever been sued in Arizona for refusing to serve a gay couple, I predict that the first time that actually happens it will be in the courts and overturned.  Either we have federal discrimination laws for everyone or we do not.  You can't have exceptions to such laws and still believe in the constitution.  Equal protection means equal protection.  Certainly all the cases for marriage equality proves that.  

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Should that make a difference, in your view...? If two women or two men hold hands in a restaurant---an outward display of same-sex behavior---should a server be allowed to refuse to serve them, and have the couple kicked out of the restaurant by the manager--because they "were acting gay, which violated [the server's and manager's] religious beliefs"....?

If a Mormon couple were discussing a missionary farewell or their temple marriage in the same restaurant, should the Baptist server and manager be allowed to likewise refuse service to said couple, and kick them out of the establishment...?

 

It seems like Cal is asking whether or not this bill recognizes the difference between not serving someone just because they are gay, and not personally having to do something that goes against your beliefs.

 

For example, serving a gay couple in a restaurant is not against anyone's religious beliefs.  Marrying a gay couple might be.

 

I don't see that this bill makes a distinction, which bothers me greatly.

 

I'm not in favor of laws which make it legal to discriminate, but neither would i be in favor of a black man or a Jewish man being successfully sued by a Neo Nazi because he refused to make a cake for a Nazi rally.   

 

It's obviously an extremely thin line.  When that lesbian couple in NM sued the woman because she would not participate in their wedding, even though there were other equal options available to them, they opened a can of worms that people have a right to try and deal with.

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Should that make a difference, in your view...? If two women or two men hold hands in a restaurant---an outward display of same-sex behavior---should a server be allowed to refuse to serve them, and have the couple kicked out of the restaurant by the manager--because they "were acting gay, which violated [the server's and manager's] religious beliefs"....?

If a Mormon couple were discussing a missionary farewell or their temple marriage in the same restaurant, should the Baptist server and manager be allowed to likewise refuse service to said couple, and kick them out of the establishment...?

 

 

Yes to both.
 
It is one thing for a restaurant to refuse service to people because of race,. religion, sexual orientation, etc.   Quite another to refuse service because of how they are behaving.  It is pretty much up to each restaurant to define what it considers unacceptable behavior. 
 
BTW, in the first scenario, should a restaurant be allowed to kick out those at the next table if they start making derogatory comments to each other about the outward display of “gay behavior” they are observing?  
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Here's the text of the bill:  http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/51leg/2r/bills/sb1062s.pdf

 

Honestly, I'm not sure what this bill accomplishes other than stirring the pot and causing more hard feelings.  Obviously we are all reading in the media that this allows people and business owners to discriminate against homosexual individuals on the basis of religious beliefs.  But, the way I read the bill, they can only refuse if it is necessary to prevent an infringement of their free exercise of religion.  So then, if we apply this to the oft-cited NM photographer case, wouldn't the photographer need to prove that taking wedding pictures interfered with their free exercise of religion?

 

I dunno... I guess I need a law degree to understand this.

 

But what I do know is that homosexuals are born equally to both democrats and republicans.  The more that republicans continue to support legislation like this (and Ted Cruz's recent federal bill) the more unlikely they are to ever win back the white house.

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The difference is that you are not refusing service/discriminating against a person, you are refusing a service that goes against your personal moral compass. I bet none of the bakers, florists, etc..., would have refused to sell any of these folks a cupcake, or sell them a dozen roses. 

Their objection was to the activity, not the person. Big difference between that and refusing to entrance to a person based on the color of their skin, no matter how benign the activity. 

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The difference is that you are not refusing service/discriminating against a person, you are refusing a service that goes against your personal moral compass. I bet none of the bakers, florists, etc..., would have refused to sell any of these folks a cupcake, or sell them a dozen roses. 

Their objection was to the activity, not the person. Big difference between that and refusing to entrance to a person based on the color of their skin, no matter how benign the activity. 

 

Well, the "service" doesn't go against the person's moral compass... taking wedding pictures is obviously not a problem for that photographer.  That's the service - taking pictures.  To me that seems different than forcing a minister to actually marry a gay couple when that goes against his/her religious beliefs.

 

That said, I still don't see how they can meet the requirement of this law and show that providing a service infringes on the free exercise of their religion.  I'm not trying to be belligerent with this.  I just honestly don't get what this law will accomplish.

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Well, the "service" doesn't go against the person's moral compass... taking wedding pictures is obviously not a problem for that photographer.  That's the service - taking pictures.  To me that seems different than forcing a minister to actually marry a gay couple when that goes against his/her religious beliefs.

 

That said, I still don't see how they can meet the requirement of this law and show that providing a service infringes on the free exercise of their religion.  I'm not trying to be belligerent with this.  I just honestly don't get what this law will accomplish.

 

Funny you should bring that up, because I spent my day as an attorney dealing with the free exercise clause. I think forcing people to serve gay folks against their will (why a gay person would want service from that individual is beyond me), would almost certainly violate the free exercise clause. You can't punish a person for their religious beliefs under the FEC. So, telling someone they have to serve, as I understand the case law, a blatant violation of the FEC. I don't see a way around it.

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From the Arizona Episcopal Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Bishop Kirk Smith:

Who among us doesn't want to support religious freedom? This argument seems to be the tactic of some arch-conservative lawmakers, who have convinced our Arizona legislators that it is fine to deny people basic human rights under the guise of religious freedom. Lawmakers in other states and members of both political parties have been astute enough to see what bills like this really are – a wolf in sheep's clothing that masks discrimination under a veneer of piety. Arizona, however, with its propensity for making itself into the political laughing-stock of the nation, has been duped once again. One can only pray that our Governor will, as the Arizona Republic said this morning, “get out her veto pen.”

What the law also includes:

A) Enables Discrimination based on “sincerely held beliefs.” The bill expands the term “exercise of religion” to include elements of practice and tacit “observance” of the religion (i.e., enacted beliefs). A person’s “religious practice and liberty” could be used under this bill as an excuse to deny people fair housing, job opportunities, and any kind of equal protection under the law. The framework of the bill is state-sanctioned discrimination.

B) Expands the legal definition of personhood. In the current legislation, a “person” by definition becomes any and all entities, including “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity. Personal morals could therefore apply to the way commerce is conducted, theoretically denying access or services to another group, under the grounds that offering them would be religiously reprehensible.

C) Overrides any municipal non-discrimination legislation. The ordinances of local governments would be subject to the state’s legislation, thereby nullifying the will of the people of a community, including recent legislation passed in the City of Phoenix about a year ago.

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Any LDS in Arizona supporting this Act should consider this question: If a gay person walked into a Church Distribution Store and sought to buy any item that is offered for sale to the General Public, such as a Book of Mormon, should a clerk be statutorily entitled to refuse service to such a person?

This is an insane law, and I use the word "insane" purposefully.

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This is nothing more than show, legislative theatre at it best (or worst).  The law can not be used to deny Fair Housing, Fair Housing is covered by Federal Law, which trumps State law.

 

I do not beleive that Arizona has a Human Rights Commision, or equivelant; which Commissions exist in other states. And which Commissions, found that a baker and various other "persons" violated anti-discrimination laws by denying services to homosexuals.

 

This law is basically useless. I do not beleive Arizona prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the Federal Government does not consider sexual orienation a "protect class" under the Civil Rights Act. 

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Didn't the leadership of the church recently (as in the last couple of years) champion an anti descrimitory law in SLC?

I saw this article earlier and have to say the law makes me very uncomfortable. I can understand trying to protect people from being forced to be involved with specific issues which go against their religious beliefs but this law seems much to broad and sweeping. There is much too much room to descriminate.

 

Yes, the Church supported an anti-discrimnation law in Salt Lake City. Sadly (very sadly) the Church seemed to backtrack when it came to State (Utah) wide law that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. When I find the quote from the Church representative I will post it.

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I don't like these types of laws; it is not an issue to be legislated. I appreciate the right of some businesses to deny service regardless of reason. If I don't want to do something I should not be forced to do it regardless of reason.  Simply because I hang a shingle out to attract customers does not give away my right to deny service to the public.  I work because I choose to work, not because a potential customer forces me to work.  If I want to earn more money, I work.  When I have enough, I stop working.  My reasons for denying service are my own and I don't have to tell anyone why I deny service, but I should have the right to choose when to work and when not to. 

 

Sometimes I want to take pictures and other times I don't. Sometimes I want to make a cake and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I want to serve and sometimes I don't. It is my right to work when I want and for whom I want.  

 

If people don't like the fact that it is my right to choose, then don't ask me to work for you. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors; that is your right. 

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I don't like these types of laws; it is not an issue to be legislated. I appreciate the right of some businesses to deny service regardless of reason. If I don't want to do something I should not be forced to do it regardless of reason.  Simply because I hang a shingle out to attract customers does not give away my right to deny service to the public.  I work because I choose to work, not because a potential customer forces me to work.  If I want to earn more money, I work.  When I have enough, I stop working.  My reasons for denying service are my own and I don't have to tell anyone why I deny service, but I should have the right to choose when to work and when not to. 

 

Sometimes I want to take pictures and other times I don't. Sometimes I want to make a cake and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I want to serve and sometimes I don't. It is my right to work when I want and for whom I want.  

 

If people don't like the fact that it is my right to choose, then don't ask me to work for you. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors; that is your right. 

 

By hanging a shingle(business license) out you are giving up your right to determine whom can purchase your services.

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From Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton:

Mayor Greg Stanton this evening said that a bill passed by the State Legislature that allows for increased discrimination against members of the LGBT community and many others is not only wrong, but would deliver a significant blow to the state economy. He urged the Governor to veto S.B. 1062.

Stanton issued the following statement:

"This evening, the Arizona State Legislature sent to the Governor's desk a bill that aims to provide significant legal protections to those who actively discriminate against our fellow citizens.

"S.B. 1062 cruelly targets the LGBT community, but also clears the way for renewed discrimination against people who suffered from discrimination in the past. As written, it would subject women, members of the Mormon, Jewish and Muslim communities, disabled individuals and many more to hateful – but suddenly legal – acts.

"I firmly believe that this wrong-headed legislation is flatly unconstitutional, and I am confident it will meet a certain death in the courts of law.

"Until then, the only thing it will accomplish is to further divide our state, and give new life to the false impression that Arizonans are intolerant – an impression we have worked so hard to overcome. Allowing that to happen would be a grave and wholly unnecessary self-inflicted wound that Arizona's economy cannot afford.

"The potential consequences are real. Many of the most innovative minds in our workforce could leave to our competitor regions, and businesses would have a much more difficult time attracting top talent to our state. Universities would be at a severe disadvantage in attracting the brightest students. And from Tucson to Sedona to the Grand Canyon, Arizona's tourism and visitor industry would take a significant blow.

"Despite the message the Legislature has sent to the nation and the world, I know Arizonans are inclusive and accepting, and understand that our collective differences make us stronger. The tiny but mighty town of Bisbee approved civil unions for same-sex couples last year, and cities such as Tempe and Scottsdale have long protected members of the LGBT community through anti-discrimination ordinances. And I could not be more proud that Phoenix is one of only 25 cities in the country to earn a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.

"I urge the Governor to do the right thing, and veto S.B. 1062."

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Valentinus, while this bill and very likely the animus behind it, is terrible; Mayor Stanton and many are wrong about this bill.

 

Sexual Orientation is not a protect class at the State or Federal level.  This means, Arizonians already posses the legal right to say "You are homosexual, I do not have to provide you any services."   Given that Arizonians currently can discriminate against homosexuals, this law is just show and nothing more.

 

If Sexual Orientation was a protected status at the Federal level, this law would be dead on arrival.

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