The Arizona House of Representatives has passed what's been called a "license to discriminate" bill, following the Senate's approval yesterday, and sent it to Gov. Jan Brewer for her signature. The bill passed 33-27, largely along party lines, though three House Republicans opposed the legislation.
The measure would give legal protection to businesses and individuals that deny goods and services to certain consumers -- for instance, same-sex couples having a wedding or commitment ceremony -- on the grounds that doing so would place a substantial burden on their exercise of religion. The service provider could use religious beliefs as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit. This could affect not only LGBT people but also, for instance, single women or people of different religions.
Similar measures have been proposed in several states in the wake of discrimination complaints by gay couples, but Arizona is poised to be the first to pass one into law. Brewer has five days to sign the bill, veto it, or do nothing and allow it to become law without her signature, The Arizona Republic reports.
She vetoed a nearly identical bill last year, but that was because of legislative disputes over the state budget and Medicaid expansion, as she said she would not sign any bills into law until those issues were resolved, the Republic notes. Brewer has not commented on this year's legislation, as is her practice before bills reach her desk, but the new measure has a good chance of becoming law, according to the paper.
Opponents of the bill predicted there will be a backlash against Arizona because of it, with loss of business and perhaps a lawsuit to block it.
"The message that's interpreted is we want you to work here, but we are not going to go out of our way to protect you, to protect your rights, to protect your family," said Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Phoenix Democrat, according to the Republic. "God forbid should someone come to the Super Bowl and come to a restaurant that is not going to allow them in." The state is set to host next year's Super Bowl.
Maine rejected a similar bill today, and four other states took action this week to block similar efforts or put them on the back burner.