The Arizona House yesterday passed a bill that would allow anyone to discriminate against anyone for any reason, especially on the grounds of religious liberty. The bill, designed to allow private businesses the legal right to discriminate against LGBT people by citing their personal religious objections to homosexuality, overrules Arizona’s current anti-discrimination statutes. The bill, whose chief sponsor is Rep. Steve Yarbrough (image, above,) passed the House by a 32-24 vote, and has been transmitted to the Arizona Senate. All House Democrats voted against the bill.
The bill could be considered the religious liberties version of a “stand your ground” law, allowing an automatic “out” to defend anyone’s “practice or observance of religion.” In other words, it would give Arizona residents and businesses the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, including because they are LGBT.
Not only does the bill allow lawsuits for real or perceived violations of the law, but it “would allow people to sue over potential violations of religious liberty,” as the AP reported today:
Civil liberties groups say the bill would be a nightmare for businesses because it could prompt a wave of lawsuits over alleged First Amendment violations.
Arizona Central notes “opponents say the bill could protect people who discriminate.”
“It’s giving business owners sort of the go-ahead to choose not to provide services for the LGBT community,” said Seráh Blain, executive director of the Secular Coalition for Arizona.
Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, opposed the bill. He said during the House debate that small businesses could face the brunt of additional litigation if individuals use SB 1178 to sue them for following a state law someone believes conflicts with their religion. “Litigation could now be directed at the private sector even though the private sector is acting in good faith with a law they should be following,” he said.
Opponents of the ordinance, including the Center for Arizona Policy, have alleged it could lead to individuals using gender identity as a “ruse” to gain access to opposite-sex bathrooms and requiring businesses to let it happen.
“My organization is particularly concerned about any kind of legislation that allows the religious beliefs of people in power to marginalize vulnerable groups of people,” Blain said. “We are concerned about the transgender community, LGBT individuals, women, anyone who is vulnerable to discrimination.”
She said she believes it gives business owners the go-ahead to ignore laws and rules requiring equal services for minorities. “This seems very akin to the ways in which states tried to avoid desegregation,” she said.
The bio of Rep. Steve Yarbrough, the bill’s chief sponsor, notes:
Since 1998 he has been the Executive Director of the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization which has provided scholarships to thousands of Arizona students to attend the school of their parent’s choice.
Sen. Yarbrough leads a bipartisan group of legislators and citizen group leaders known as the Arizona Values Action Team which supports public policy that is pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-school choice and pro-religious liberty.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.