Arizona Senate Passes Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse Service to Gays Based on Religious Beliefs

Arizonaflag Yarbrough

Arizona's Senate has voted 17-13 to approve a bill allowing businesses to refuse service to gays based on religious beliefs, the Arizona Daily Star reports:

The 17-13 vote along party lines, with Republicans in the majority, came after supporters defeated an attempt to extend existing employment laws that bar discrimination based on religion and race to also include sexual orientation. Sen. Steve Yarbrough (pictured), R-Chandler, said that's a separate issue from what he is trying to do.

But Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said that's precisely the issue.

"The bill opens the door for discrimination against gays and lesbians," he said.

Yarbrough, however, said foes of SB 1062 are twisting what his legislation says.

"This bill is not about discrimination," he said. "It's about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."

According to an earlier report in the Star, "SB 1062 would allow businesses sued in a civil case to claim they have a legal right to not provide service to an individual or group because it would “substantially burden’’ their freedom of religion."

Read the text of the bill here.

The House is set to vote on a matching bill imminently.


  1. Gregory in Seattle says

    The bill does not specifically mention “gay” and will open the door to widespread discrimination. Does your religion teach that everyone not of your faith is evil and will burn in Hell forever? You can refuse them service. Does your religion teach you that only whites are blessed by God? You can refuse service to anyone who does not have the right shade of skin. Does your religion teach you that women must not be allowed out into public with visible skin? You can refuse service to tramps with bare arms.

    Worse, an employee with such beliefs cannot be fired if they discriminate against customers, regardless of company policy: the religious fee-fees of the bigot would take total and absolute priority over the business plan of the employer.

    Just wait until a Muslim shopkeeper uses the law to ban Christians: you know what will hit the fan then.

  2. Mark says

    So, among other types of businesses, restaurants can turn people away for being gay, but there’s no indication about how restaurant owners determine who is and who isn’t. Does this also mean a disabled gay war veteran would also be turned away? Does it also include elderly gay men and women? How about gay youth? Will they get thrown out as well?

    Will they be installing Gaydar Meters at the doors of these businesses? Will all customers have to fill out “lifestyle applications” in order to get a burger and fries?

    Many years ago, I owned a restaurant. We welcomed everyone because the color of their money was the same as everyone else’s. With Arizona’s economy in the toilet, it is hard to imagine why any business would turn away any customer who was ready, willing and able to pay for goods and services.

  3. SpaceCadet says

    This is so unconstitutional it’s laughable and won’t survive a court challenge. What would be there to stop me from creating my own religion and hold that it’s my belief that I can’t serve wedding cakes to bald white men who wear glasses.

  4. kdknyc says

    The assumption here is that the only “true” religion will be their particular brand–all others won’t count. And there will be howls of protest if someone discriminated against a christian, using exactly this law. Their response would be something like “Oh, no, we meant only OUR religious beliefs.”

  5. DickZinya says

    Ok fine. But if you’re claiming this hard line religious freedom, you’ll have to follow it all precisely as it’s written. Divorced? Prepare to be stoned to death. Why? Because the bible says so.

    Religion is open to interpretation. A Christian could simply follow the direction to “love one another,” and “judge not, lest ye be judged” and be supportive of or participate in a gay relationship.

    If the bible is going to be the law of the land (it isn’t, nor was it ever meant to be) those wielding this literary sword should be prepared to die by its draconian edicts as well. Good luck!

  6. says

    The Center for Arizona Policy, a fundamentalist think tank, wrote the bill. They are a “non-profit” that writes anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti education bills, hands them over to the legislature, and AZ tax payers end up footing the millions of dollars in legal bills that result.

  7. crispy says

    “This bill is not about discrimination,” he said. “It’s about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”

    That’s some superb double-speak. Arizona is a cesspool of Mormon bigotry.

  8. MiddleoftheRoader says

    The National Football League is about to hold the 2015 Super Bowl in Arizona. Pressure should begin immediately on the NFL to move the Super Bowl — if this bill passes, every motel owner, taxi cab operator, restaurant, etc. will be able to deny service to Super Bowl fans who “life-styles” conflict with the religious beliefs to the service provider.


  9. TED says

    Does this mean that if you have a sincere religious belief that you should be able to marry the person you love, that Arizona would be compelled to give you a marriage license so that you can freely exercise your religion?

  10. e.c. says

    It seems only fair that if businesses are going to be allowed to discriminate in this manner then they should be required to post a large sign out front of their establishments alerting potential customers to that fact that they may be denied service if they don’t meet the owners arbitrary standards of religious purity. I’m sure having to post something welcoming like “White, Straight, Non-divorced Christians Only” in the window would be great for business.

  11. parkrunner says

    The state hasn’t changed since the MLK holiday fiasco that cost them the Super Bowl in 1990. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon and Sedona; I didn’t plan on going back. I’d rather do what I can to make this boil fester.

  12. PHW says

    How can you know who’s being religiously “sincere” in their homophobia as opposed to just run of the mill homophobia? Is the government going to be involved in religious sincerity tests?

  13. Bryan L says

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the religious in Arizona who believe in equality started a campaign to fight this execrable bill. I suggest t-shirts that say I BELIEVE IN THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND HATE.

  14. Moretruth says

    This is so exhausting. It is time that practicing homosexuality be classified as part of our “gay” religion. Then, if we are refused services or discriminated against in any way we can claim religious persecution.

  15. Moretruth says

    This is so exhausting. It is time that practicing homosexuality be classified as part of our “gay” religion. Then, if we are refused services or discriminated against in any way we can claim religious persecution.

  16. Luke says

    @Parkrunner, the Super Bowl is going to be in Phoenix again next year (2015).. Maybe with enough public pressure we could get the Super Bowl to pull out of Arizona, again!

  17. Bill says

    The text of the law includes the following, which seems to suggest that using this exception to civil rights laws might be harder than it seems.

    E. A person that asserts a violation of this section must establish all of the following:

    1. That the person’s action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief.

    2. That the person’s religious belief is sincerely held.

    3. That the state action substantially burdens the exercise of the person’s religious beliefs.

    F. The person asserting a claim or defense under subsection D of this section may obtain injunctive and declaratory relief. A party who prevails in any action to enforce this article against a government shall recover attorney fees and costs.

    E. In For the purposes of this section, the term substantially burden is intended solely to ensure that this article is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions.

  18. HOFFENPOT says

    All they’re doing is making a statement. They know full well that this is unconstitutional and will get laughed out of the first courtroom it hits. These laws are quite trendy in the red states at the moment. Want to get their attention? As soon as the law is passed and in effect, have a Muslim refuse service to a Christian. They’ll see the light then. Up here in Maine, the state Senate voted down a bill like this and is headed for certain defeat in the House.

  19. says

    Good Christians. Doing God’s work. Mike Huckabee & Sarah Palin style Christians. Where’s Michelle Bachman? Ted Cruz?

    Their narrowmindedness will be their undoing. Other religions that aren’t fundamentalist will see this for the socially destructive desperation tactic it really is. Of course it’s unconstitutional. Of course it’s a societal minefield. Their true face has been revealed.

    It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. Wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen in a few other Republican strongholds. Let’s give equality affirming religions of all denominations and other equality affirming groups & businesses a chance to speak up. See if any local or national Republican figures speak up.

    Really Priebus? Is this the war horse you want the GOP to ride to the Nov elections?

  20. Vince says

    Again, pages of the European countries need to be looked at… Division of State and Faith. When Faith Dictates state matters we are no better than the countries and faiths we fight against. People are worried of an over run of muslim faith. should be very worried of Catholicism and Christianity.

  21. Bill says

    @robertL: according to the text of the law, a person claiming to use a religious exemption has to prove that he is religious and was motivated by his religious beliefs. A plaintiff is going to ask the homophobe about divorce and other “sins” and suggest that his “religious convictions” are a transparent excuse for homophobia.

    It may turn out (depending on how courts interpret it) that this law isn’t as bad for gay rights as it seems, but if that is the case, it will only because of the law serving as a full-employment program for lawyers.

  22. MiddleoftheRoader says

    Sorry, Bill, your comments are way off the mark. This bill is BAD — and if you think that it’s going to be interpreted the way you’ve said, unfortunately you are mistaken.

    I’ve just finished watching the debate in the House (and Senate) on this bill. It would allow a mattress store to refuse to sell bedding to an unmarried hetero couple, it would allow a bakery to refuse to bake a cake for an inter-racial marriage, it would allow a doctor to refuse to treat an unmarried woman for a sexually-related disease, it would allow a motel to refuse to rent a room to a same-sex couple, and on and on…… as long as the bigot could say something like “Corinthians 4.9 disapproves of sex outside of marriage, or sex between different races, or whatever…” It doesn’t even have to be from the Christian Bible — the bigotry can be based on any religious source.

    In larger cities like Phoenix and Tucson, there are other places that we can shop or stay. In smaller cities and rural areas, this is a disaster……it’s state-sponsored bullying in the name of God.

    The NFL needs to move the Super Bowl out of Arizona in 2015.

  23. ThomT says

    Nothing more than pandering to their base. Any politician with even minimal sense knows this, if passed, will be tossed out of court with virtually no chance of ever passing a constitutional challenge. But then these politician will turn to their constituants, with palms outstretched, pleading for more contributions because they need to keep working to “protect” the faithful from having to soil their hands having to serve the godless homosexuals. They’ll swear they really tried but the liberal activist judges unfairly overruled them. Jesus would hang his head in shame.

  24. Bill says

    @MiddleoftheRoader: You have a reading comprehension problem. I said it may not be as bad as it sounds, which doesn’t imply that it is good or reasonable. How the courts interpret it is at this point unknown. In my first comment, I quoted a portion of the law as it was written. This is not a matter of opinion but of fact.

    The facts are that a person claiming a religious exemption must prove in a court of law that his/her religious beliefs are sincerely held and that the “state action” substantially burdens those religious beliefs (among other requirements). You’d be hard pressed to claim that pouring water into a glasses used by a gay couple substantially burdens one’s religious beliefs.

    There’s an obvious distinction between baking a cake, photographing a reception, and photographing a church wedding in which a religious ritual conflicting with one’s religious beliefs is performed (and hence being present or in some sense part of that ritual). The law isn’t that detailed, so it will be up to the courts to draw the boundaries.

    Aside from the obvious fact that judges do not necessarily hold the same beliefs as the current crop of Arizona state senators, especially at the appellate level there is a strong incentive to make rulings that are precise enough for the lower courts to apply mechanically. This is in the appellate judges’ self interest as it reduces the number of appeals they have to handle. So they are going to interpret it and try to draw reasonable boundaries. Then they’ll be accused of being “activist judges” by someone who wants boundaries to be drawn differently.

    And if a guy who claims to be a Mormon tries to justify denying services to gays based on his religious beliefs, he has to show those are sincerely held. If the guy has a rap sheet for repeated arrests for public intoxication, he’s going to have a hell of a time convincing a judge that his professed religious beliefs are sincerely held. Such a claim would sound to the judge like the proverbial case of a guy convicted of murdering his parents asking for leniency due to being an orphan.

    So based on that, I don’t think the law is as bad as it sounds. That doesn’t make it a good law. It is just like saying that a Category 3 storm isn’t as bad as a Category 5 storm.

  25. Chuck says


    Man they are just aiming a missile at the SCOTUS that is going to blow their precious religious freedom out of the water and install gay-rights nationwide.

  26. says

    Arizona , the new Alabama !! Sometimes I find myself being embarrassed to say I am an American .. This is one of these times … It scares the bjeebus out of me to see SO MUCH in your face bigotry hiding behind Religion, out there

  27. Billbo says

    I always though I had the right to refuse service to anyone at anytime. I don’t see where someone has the right to force me to serve them if I don’t want to. That is where the problem started. If I don’t want to sell you something then you an’t getting it. The problem is the homosexual seems to think that everyone has to accept them and their lifestyle choice. I prefer that homosexual stay away form me and I will and do stay away from them. I don’t do business with mormons or homos.

  28. Bob Kunst says

    Dear Gov. Janice Brewer of Arizona:

    Sitting on your desk is truely one of the dumbest, discriminatory bills against the Gay, Bisexual and Heterosexual community and their supporters.

    It astounds me how the GOPerverts and the Russians have so much in common in their gay-bashing politics, when the real issues of freedom and ‘taxation with representation’ are the Constitutional issues that protects all Americans and should be procting all Russians if they had a brain.

    If you want to be known at the “Grand Canyon of Bigots State”, the world should boycott, since it’s filled with poison, discrimination and hate, we could advance this ‘Boycott The Bigots’, as we did with the world-famous O.J. boycott we did with and against Anita Bryant’s tactics to do the same insanity proposed by this ‘bigot bill’ on your desk. “No More O.J. From The Unshine State” was our slogan that cost the citrus industry $hundreds of millions with Anita their spokesperson, they finally got rid of.

    Maybe the bill you ought to be signing is one that says you want to discriminate against gays, bisexuals and heterosexuals living alternative lovestyles and then they don’t have to pay taxes since Arizona would like to do ‘Putin Pucks It’ anti-gay politics in Russia that managed to overshadow their $51billions in the Winter Olympics. Speaking of the Olympics, their opening ceremony featured music from ‘Swan Lake’ written by Tchaikovsky, who was gay. So much for honoring their best or the millions who fought the Nazis or died by Stalin’s hand, who were also gay, bisexual and heterosexuals leading alternative love styles.

    Since G-d works in mysterious ways, Russia was shut out on any medal in hockey, including the U.S. beating them. G-d has always been on our side. It snowed the very next day in Miami,first time ever, after we passed gay, bisexual and heterosexual rights, 1/18/77.

    I don’t know one person who would give their hard earned monies to a bigot that didn’t want their business then or now.

    Businesses could put up a sign: “Gays Not Wanted Here” and you could emulate the Nazis, with Europe being “Jew Free”. There is no end to this madness, should you fall into this trap. And when doesn’t the GOPverts want to make sure that they never win another national election with this garbage while illustrating their emotional and sexual hangups?

    When Arizona’s Motto is: “G-d Enriches”, why would you attack gays created in G-d’s image? Why would you attack the very issue that if G-d didn’t love gays, he wouldn’t have made so many? If G-d is love, why aren’t you supporting G-d? “G-d Enriches” is false advertising, if you are attacking G-d, with the bigots in control.

    Why would Arizona not support instead…. all consenting adult ‘love’ relations, which is where the rest of the nation is heading and many countries around the world too.

    Obviously, Obama won re-election because the public is already behind Gay Marriage, Abortion, Contraception and it’s like throwing a bone to the GOPerverts, who once they talk about sex, go beserk, while not being able to keep their zippers up in their hypocracies. The public has already caught on to this and more voters than ever are on our side in this ‘cultural war’ we already won against Anita/Falwell in 1976-1980 campaigns.

    Our latest GOPervert casualty, “The Cocaine Congressman” from West Fla., just quit a few weeks ago, after getting caught buying cocaine, while he was pushing for all on food stamps to be tested for drug use.

    Demanding small government, while trying to regulate everyone’s behavior but their own and is none of their business in the first place is the legacy of the GOPerverts…. Obama could easily have been defeated, if the focus was on national security and defense and not appeasing the very Jihadists who want America and Israel dead. Obama’s foreign policy and Middle East policies are a total disaster,endangering us all, but the GOPerverts want to save the fetus while aborting the living.

    So for the record. In 1976-77, Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell used the gays to stop ERA with Fla. the pivotal state.

    We in turn added ‘affectional and sexual preference’ non-discrimination in housing, employment and public accomodations.

    She collected the signatures and got the ‘for’ vote, but we took a local issue into the biggest global event and forum from the White House on down, got 50,000 media, got millions out of the closet and thousands of groups mobilized to fight back. We also got 92,000 votes in Round I and opened the door, finally from the religious fanatic controls and misrepresentations. We are the ‘role models’ and the ‘truth’ to set everyone free.

    In Round II, 1978, we collected 18,000 signatures to get 10,000 good ones and now we got the ‘for’ vote and this time got 142,000 votes or 42% and again in the most open debate on human sexuality in the world and still raging. We gained 50,000 new votes and trusted the public with the truth and exposed and opposed Anita/Falwell’s hangups and politics.

    The liberals would then sell us out and triple the number of signatures to do Round III and when we got 40,000 signatures they sprang a ‘voter purge’ to make sure we wouldn’t get on or win on the ballot. We have known that sexuality isn’t a liberal vs. conservative issue. We never took anyone or anything for granted but reached out to everyone.

    So we embraced and ran a statewide Constitutional Amendment on Privacy Rights:”All Natural Persons Have The Right To Be Free and Left Alone From Government Intrusion Into Their Private Lives”. Anita and the ‘religious fanatics’ went beserk again and said this would legalize marijuana, gay marriage, etc. and we agreed and stated that the 600 murders in Miami in 1980 meant that with limited police and resources, the choice was simple: security and protection or obsession with who is having sex and getting high.
    On Nov. ballot in 2014, Fla. will vote for ‘medical marijuana’ with 82% support already.

    Statewide we got 1,723,000 votes (60%) to 1,123,000. In Miami-Dade, the ‘Holyland of Gays Rights’ we got 242,000 votes or 62%. We beat Jimmy Carter by 300,000 votes, who was with Anita/Falwell and today, this loser, who ‘lusted’ in his heart, grovels with the Jihadists against G-d’s Eternal Covenant with the Jewish people ‘occupying’ ‘the holyland’ for the last 5000 yrs..

    The day Ronald Reagan won election, we defeated in Fla., the Anita/Falwell gangsters with the same fanaticism, that is being presented today, 2014, in Arizona.

    So the religious hypocrites want to attack their own and everyone elses gay children, while ignoring that 2123 Christians were killed by the fanatic Muslims in 2013, up from 1201 in 2012. So much for giving religion a bad name.

    In 1980, we started our “Oral Majority” at Falwell’s “Moral Majority” headquarters and for 3 months traveled to 23 states, including Arizona, did over 1000 media, to share with everyone how we went from a minority to a majority on the ballot and used the bigots to get to this new freedom and support for the Constiution, our reason to pay taxes. “Taste Florida’s Tropical Topical, Be a Part of the Oral Majority Naturally.’ Our Miami Victory Campaign has produced one victory after another.

    Arizona and the world could learn from our Florida Transperience that is the Oral Majority, or Arizona could look really stupid, being the catalyst to another anti-gay GOPervert/Russian withchhunt and suffer the consequences of all emotionally and sexual secure Americans and foreigners boycotting Arizona we’d gladly lead.

    When the Cayman Islands said they didn’t want gay tourists, we boycotted them and now everyone is invited.

    The choice is yours as it is mine, where I spend my very gay,bisexual and heterosexual dollars.

    Gov. Brewer, you are sworn to uphold the Constitution and to serve all people. Are you saying that illegals have more rights than native born? Anita/Falwell tried that. We threw her out of Fla. and Falwell is dead.

    Real people of faith wouldn’t behave like the Center For Arizona Policy Action….playing KGB Putin politics that is a disgrace and curses Arizona and America.

    Yours in Shalom,
    Bob Kunst
    Pres., Shalom International

  29. Bill says

    @Isabel : Can’t you just cast a spell and turn the people who voted for this bill into the toads that they are? (Just joking of course – I know that Wiccan beliefs are that you should never do any harm and that turning people into toads is problematic given the laws of physics.)

  30. Steve says

    God commands us to love everyone… even our enemies. He also teaches us not to judge others. These bigots and hate mongers will even twist God’s word to suit their agenda. Didn’t He also say “If anyone here is without sin… let him cast the first stone?”

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