Arizona Lawmaker Proposes Religious ‘License To Discriminate’ Against LGBT People


Arizona Rep. Steve Yarbrough (R)

Arizona state Rep. Steve Yarbrough (R) has introduced a bill (SB 1062) that would create a blanket “license to discriminate” against LGBT people (and others) so long as there was religious motivation to do so. He hopes to avoid a situation like in neighbor state New Mexico where a wedding photographer was found guilty of discrimination for refusing to work a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony.

Yarbrough’s bill, which he has introduced in past sessions, is so sweeping that religious belief could be used to defend any form of discrimination that would otherwise be protected under law, including gender. He acknowledged to reporter Howard Fischer that his bill could be used to discriminate against not only gay people, but also unmarried women, or people with different religious beliefs, as examples. It’s possible that his bill could actually allow religion to be used to justify breaking nearly any law in Arizona. Yarbrough simply trusts that protections that have been traditionally recognized before would still be protected were his bill to become law.

Such discrimination doesn’t infringe on people’s rights, Yarbrough claims, so long as the services can be accessed elsewhere. A hotel could use the law to refuse a room to a gay couple without fear of a suit so long as there were other hotels in town. It would be just like it already is for pharmacists, who are protected from dispensing the “morning after” pill to women if it violates their religious beliefs:

If he’s the only pharmacy in Bisbee, you may have a problem,” he said. But Yarbrough said the outcome would be different “if there are two more down the road and Target does this and there’s no issue, and he knows that you can go there.”

“And, of course, if he’s at all smart, is probably going to say, ‘And by the way, two blocks down the road is a Target and they have a pharmacy,’” Yarbrough said.

Apparently discrimination is okay if motivated by religious beliefs, so long as there’s another hotel, pharmacy, or lunch counter down the street that doesn’t discriminate. If they all happen to discriminate, Yarbrough seems to believe that’s their right and the individuals denied service are just out of luck.

Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed an identical version of Yarbrough’s bill last year as part of a vendetta against the state legislature for not passing a budget.