Thursday, February 20, 2014

Arizona Senate OKs bill that protects one's religious beliefs

The Arizona Senate has passed a Republican-backed bill that expands the rights of people to assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays and others.

Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the bill being pushed by social conservatives, saying it would allow discriminatory actions by businesses.

But GOP Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler says his push was prompted by a New Mexico case where the state Supreme Court allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to take pictures of their wedding. He says he's protecting religious rights.

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 to date.

Democrats sponsored eight hostile amendments during Wednesday's debate that were rejected by Republicans who control the Senate.

A similar bill is making its way through the House.

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