State senators in Arizona voted heavily along partisan lines Wednesday in passing a bill that allows business owners to refuse service to homosexuals based on their religious beliefs.
With Republicans in the majority, the bill, SB 1062, passed with a 17-13 vote. It defeated attempts to expand existing employment laws which protect against racial and religious discrimination to include sexual orientation, according to theArizona Daily Star. A companion bill is also expected to pass in the House shortly.
“This bill is not about discrimination,” said Yarbrough who is a sponsor of the bill. “It’s about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”
The Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus responded in a statement that the group opposes the bill because it “conflates discrimination with religious freedom.”
“SB 1062 permits discrimination under the guise of religious freedom,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anna Tovar in the statement. “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.”
Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo who represents Phoenix said while everyone has the right to their religious beliefs he doesn’t agree with the premise of SB 1062.
“I do not agree that we have the right to discriminate because of our religious beliefs,” said Gallardo. “I do not believe we have to throw our religious beliefs to others that don’t share our same beliefs.”
Arizona currently has laws protecting individuals and businesses from any state action which substantially interferes with their right to exercise their religion. SB 1062 bolsters that protection by extending coverage to private transactions as well.