John M. Becker

AZ Advances Religious 'Right to Discriminate' Bill

Filed By John M. Becker | January 17, 2014 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: anti-discrimination law, Arizona, Christianists, Jan Brewer, religious exemption, religious privilege, Republican Party, special rights, Steve Yarbrough, theocracy

steve-yarbrough-arizona.jpgIn the latest dispatch from America's creeping theocracy, a bill that would create a special "right" to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religion was passed yesterday by a state senate committee in Arizona.

Under the bill (SB 1062), which was introduced by Republican State Senator Steve Yarbrough, individuals and businesses would be granted the legal right to refuse services to people or groups if they claimed that doing so would "substantially burden" their freedom of religion.

According to the Sierra Vista Herald, Yarbrough made clear that his bill is specifically intended to legitimize discrimination against the LGBT community:

"Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said the measure is aimed specifically at preventing what happened in New Mexico where courts there said a gay couple could sue a wedding photographer who turned away their request to take pictures at their nuptials. He said that should not be allowed to happen here. But Yarbrough said his legislation could also be interpreted broader than that, allowing motel operators with vacant rooms to refuse to rent to gays."

See how that works? Under Yarbrough's proposed legislation, you'd be free to discriminate against those evil, hell-bound queers with impunity as long as you claimed Jesus told you to do it. David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement puts it another way: "The Devil made me do it' could literally become a 'get out of jail free' card in Arizona, if Republicans in the Grand Canyon State have their way."

But the bill wouldn't stop there. Details, after the jump.

Yarbrough admitted to reporter Howard Fischer that the measure's language is so broad that it could also potentially allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against other protected groups, including unmarried women and non-Christians. ThinkProgress says the proposed bill "could actually allow religion to be used to justify breaking nearly any law in Arizona."

Zack Ford adds, "Yarbrough simply trusts that protections that have been traditionally recognized before would still be protected were his bill to become law."

The senator has the audacity to claim that if his bill were to pass, it wouldn't infringe upon anyone's rights, provided services could be accessed at other, non-discriminating businesses in the area.

He likened it to a 2009 Arizona law, which has since been upheld in court, that allows pharmacists to refuse to provide women with the "morning after" contraceptive pill if it conflicts with their religious views.

"If he's the only pharmacy in Bisbee, you may have a problem," he said. But Yarbrough said the outcome would be different "if there are two more down the road and Target does this and there's no issue, and he knows that you can go there."

Sound far-fetched? Don't be so sure: Fischer says that the chances of Yarbrough's bill passing "are quite good." He's introduced it before in past sessions, including last year, when the measure was approved in the legislature but blocked by a veto from Jan Brewer, Arizona's Republican governor.

However, Brewer didn't block the bill because she objected to its contents, but rather as an act of political retribution: she wanted to get back at lawmakers for not passing a budget and refusing to consider her Medicaid expansion proposal.

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