Monday, February 24, 2014

Arizona Governor Pressured to Veto Religious Freedom Bill

Over opposition from liberals, the Arizona legislature approved a bill that would prohibit suit against businesses that do not want to provide services to homosexuals. I haven't read the bill, so I can't comment on the specifics of the text. However, ABC News reports that powerful politicians and corporations are pressuring the Arizona governor to veto the bill:
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer faced intensifying pressure Monday from CEOs, politicians in Washington and state lawmakers in her own party to veto a bill that would allow business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gay people.

... The chorus of opposition has grown each day, and on Monday, three state senators who voted for the bill changed course and said they oppose it. U.S. Sen. John McCain asked Brewer to veto the measure, as did the CEO of American Airlines.

... The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

... Republicans stressed that the bill is not about discrimination but protecting religious freedom. They frequently cite the case of a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to take wedding pictures of a gay couple. They said Arizona needs a law to protect people in the state from heavy-handed actions by courts.

Another frequently cited example is a suit brought against an Oregon baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The businesses were sued, but those efforts came under state laws that extended protected-class status to gays. Arizona has no such law protecting people based on sexual orientation.
Just a couple of thoughts on this article. First, the bill was designed to protect small businesses against financially devastating investigations and law suits where the owner was being forced to set aside religious convictions in order to provide a service in support of gay marriage. Large businesses have an inherent interest in allowing such suits because they help drive smaller competitors--including potential start ups--out of business or keep them from entering the business in the first place.

Second, the failure to include homosexuals as a protected class does not preclude a state agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws, or a court, from reading it into the law under some other rubric such as gender discrimination.

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