The Arizona Senate on Wednesday passed a bill backed by Republicans that would expand the rights of people to assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays and others, a measure Democrats say would open the doors for discrimination and hurt the state economy.
Democrats and civil-rights groups opposed the bill pushed by social conservatives, saying it would allow discriminatory actions by businesses.
But the sponsor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, said his push for Senate Bill 1062 was prompted by a New Mexico case in which the state Supreme Court allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to take pictures of their wedding. He said he is protecting religious rights.
“This bill is not about allowing discrimination,” Yarbrough said during a debate that stretched for nearly two hours. “This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”
“The heart of this bill would allow for discrimination versus gays and lesbians,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “You can’t argue the fact that bill will invite discrimination. That’s the point of this bill. It is.”