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State Senate Votes to Allow Businesses Right to Refuse Services to Gays

State senators voted along party lines this afternoon to allow businesses to claim religious rights to refuse to serve gays — and against extending civil rights laws to gays. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

The legislation is in response to problems the owners of a New Mexico firm had when they refused to photograph a gay wedding. That state’s Supreme Court concluded that violated the couple’s civil rights. This measure spells out that no Arizona business can be forced to act in ways that burden a sincerely held religious belief. Sen. Steve Gallardo said that goes too far.

“We all have a right to our religious beliefs. But I do not agree that we have the right to discriminate because of our religious beliefs. I do not believe we have the right to throw our religious beliefs to others than don’t share our same beliefs,” Gallardo said.

But, Sen. Steve Yarbrough said Gallardo has it all wrong.

“This bill is not about allowing discrimination. It is about preventing discrimination against people who are living out their faith as clearly contemplated by the First Amendment,” Yarbrough said.

Sen. Kelli Ward agreed.

“A person does not lose their First Amendment freedoms once they start a business,” Ward said.

Before approving the measure the majority rebuffed an attempt to force those businesses that do not want to serve gays to post signs at their front door.

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