Gay rights activists in uproar over Arizona religious freedom bill

first_imgTUCSON, Ariz. — Say a gay couple in Phoenix walks into a bakery to order their wedding cake. The baker refuses to take their order because of his deeply held religious beliefs. Under a measure that passed the Arizona Legislature this week, the baker would have greater protection to invoke religion to shield himself from a discrimination lawsuit.The bill, approved by the Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday and the GOP-led House on Thursday, would bolster a business owner’s right to refuse service to gays and others if the owner believes doing so violates the practice and observance of his or her religion.The state Senate passed it on a straight party-line vote, 17 to 13. The House followed suit, 33 to 27, with two Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition.GOP Gov. Jan Brewer’s office said she would not take a position until she’d had a chance to review the measure.Proponents contend the bill is about protecting religious freedom, rights that “must be respected,” said Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough, who introduced the measure.Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, a House sponsor, said there had been an “onslaught of attacks on religious freedoms.” The bill, he said, “is trying to protect those freedoms.”But opponents, including Democratic lawmakers and gay activist groups, describe the bill as unconstitutional, discriminatory and divisive.It would “permit discrimination under the guise of religious freedom,” said Sen. Ana Tovar, a Democratic leader.Democrat Chad Campbell of Phoenix, the House minority leader, tweeted after the bill passed: “The world is upset with how Russia has treated gay rights. . I think it’s time for that same anger to be directed towards AZ.”last_img