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Arizona GOP Advances Wide-Sweeping Religious License To Discriminate Against Gays Bill

by David Badash on January 17, 2014

in Discrimination,News,Politics,Religion

Post image for Arizona GOP Advances Wide-Sweeping Religious License To Discriminate Against Gays Bill

“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.

An Arizona state senate committee Thursday passed a bill that would allow anyone to discriminate against gay people for any reason — if they say their religion allows them to do so. Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough, who has been pushing variations of the pro-discrimination bill since at least last year, is the bill’s sponsor.

As The New Civil Rights Movement reported last year, the bill could also be considered the religious version of a “Stand Your Ground” law, allowing anyone’s practice or observance of religion to be an automatic “out.” 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.

Through his bill, S.B. 1062, Sen. Yarborough also is working to increase First Amendment “protections” at the state level by expanding “the definition of person to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.”

So, to quote a failed former GOP presidential nominee, “Corporations are people, my friend.” At least they would be in Arizona.

“Civil rights groups are opposed to the bill, saying it will allow discriminatory actions by businesses,” the AP reports. “Yarbrough 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 record their wedding.”

But the dangers of Yarborough’s bill is even worse than some might think.

The U.S. Constitution says a violation of the First Amendment — say, the right to practice religion — would occur only if the government were the cause of that violation. (“Congress shall make no law…”)

For example, let’s say, hypothetically, if A&E were to ban Phil Robertson from appearing on “Duck Dynasty” because he shared his disgusting beliefs about gay people in a GQ article, that’s not a violation of his First Amendment rights, because A&E is the one banning him. They’re a corporation, a private entity — not the government — so they can do that, despite what Sarah Palin says.

Under Sen. Yarborough’s expanded definition of “religious freedom,” the government would protect, through his new bill, anyone claiming anyone else was inhibiting their right to practice their religion.

So, in Arizona, theoretically, Phil Robertson could sue A&E for violating his religious right to spew hate about gay people, because Arizona law would protect anyone’s right to do anything, as long as they said, “the Bible says so.” (Or the Koran, the Torah, etc.)

Think Progress adds that Yarborough’s bill “is so sweeping that religious belief could be used to defend any form of discrimination that would otherwise be protected under law, including gender. He acknowledged to reporter Howard Fischer that his bill could be used to discriminate against not only gay people, but also unmarried women, or people with different religious beliefs, as examples. It’s possible that his bill could actually allow religion to be used to justify breaking nearly any law in Arizona. Yarbrough simply trusts that protections that have been traditionally recognized before would still be protected were his bill to become law.” [Emphasis ours]


Image by Mark Strozier via Flickr

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BJLincoln January 17, 2014 at 9:05 am

All their fear and hate is in this bill. It was conceived to discriminate against LGBT people, not anyone else. Can they really pass a bill that allows open discrimination? I thought we were moving toward a country where discrimination in any form was outlawed. They are taking more than 1 or 2 steps back. More like 100 years.

peterblaise January 18, 2014 at 12:35 am

Nope, no one citizen has a superior right to inflict their own personal choices for themselves over any other citizen, regardless of their assignment of origins or motives.

… something about equal protection and blah blah blah in the Amendments — rather informative, but apparently "below the fold" for Republicans.

So distracting and expensive to re-fight these civil rights fights.

He fails to recognize that gays are our siblings, our parents, our children, our co-workers, our customers, our bosses, our service providers, our ministers, our doctors, our lawyers, our military, our fellow tax payers, our fellow citizens, ourselves.

There are, what, three restrictions in the bible about homosexuality, and what, 300+ restrictions about heterosexuality?

Heteros apparently are in need of much more remedial instruction, redirection, hand-holding and guidance, eh?

How much suffering must people endure during the last throes of sanctimonious hypocrites writhing in fear and hate?

No more second class citizens, ever, please.

Tilghman Lesher January 17, 2014 at 9:24 am

To a larger point, this bill would also make it legal to discriminate against someone because they were Jewish. Or Catholic. Or black. All you'd need to do is assert religious privilege. You could even assert the privilege to discriminate against someone because of their association with a conservative Christian sect (which is probably not what the author expects). It is a huge loophole in the civil rights laws.

Jock56 January 17, 2014 at 11:35 am

This person due to his beliefs and passion to discriminate, should be removed from the GOP.

peterblaise January 18, 2014 at 12:37 am

But, he is stereotypical GOP/T.E.A. Party material!

Huntercgo January 17, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I seem to recall that the last person to claim divine right lost his head for it — literally. That was around the time we adopted our Constitution, which mandates separation of church and state.

SeanLiberty13 January 18, 2014 at 12:51 am

Then as a Pagan I have the legal right to feed anti-gay "Christians" to my pet lion.

labman57 January 19, 2014 at 11:51 am

What is the primary difference between an organized religion such as Christianity and a cult? Membership.

Arizona’s ongoing efforts to sanction bigotry and persecution of specific demographic groups — all in the name of religion — is yet another reason why religious dogma and public policy make poor bedfellows.

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