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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Law - "Religious Right in Arizona Cheers Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse to Serve Gays"

That is the headline to this Feb. 21st story by Michael Paulson and Fernanda Santos. The lengthy story begins:

In New Mexico, a photographer declined to take pictures of a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. In Washington State, a florist would not provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. And in Colorado, a baker refused to make a cake for a party celebrating the wedding of two men.

The business owners cited religious beliefs in declining to provide services celebrating same-sex relationships. And in each case, they were sued.

Now, as states around the nation weigh how to balance the rights of same-sex couples with those of conservative religious business owners, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona must decide whether to sign legislation that would allow business owners to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for denying service to same-sex couples.

The legislation, approved by lawmakers on Thursday, immediately attracted national attention, with conservative religious groups welcoming it as a necessary form of protection for objectors to same-sex marriage, and gay rights groups denouncing it as a license for discrimination. The measure comes at a time when the courts are grappling with how to define the religious rights of private businesses.

Some later quotes:
“It sounds like it’s opening the door to hate and bigotry of all stripes,” said Rocco DiGrazia, a Tucson pizzeria owner, who on Friday attracted national attention via social media because he had posted signs on the restaurant’s doors declaring, “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Arizona Legislators.”

“I make dinner for a living — I’m not a social activist,” Mr. DiGrazia said in a telephone interview. “But I do have a lot of gay customers and employees, and why are you trying to alienate these people?” * * *

Most states where same-sex marriage is legal have exemptions for religious organizations, but not for private businesses or individuals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. * * *

“There is significant fear it will undermine local nondiscrimination laws,” said Sarah Warbelow, the state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy organization. “This is not about the freedom of individuals to practice their religion, this is about a license to discriminate against individuals.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 23, 2014 01:26 PM
Posted to General Law Related