The Arizona Senate voted 17-13 along party lines on Wednesday to approve SB 1062, a bill that would allow “any individual” to practice their religious beliefs without government consequence — essentially imposing a religious license to discriminate throughout the state. The House may take it up as early as Thursday.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R), asserts that “this bill is not about discrimination,” but about “preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.” The bill would clearly go a step farther and allow those individuals to impose their religious beliefs on others. Like bills that have been proposed in other states but faltered, that most obviously would mean open season to discriminate against the LGBT community. Democratic Senators who opposed the bill highlighted numerous other possibilities that its vague language would allow:
Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, said the measure would allow a hotel operator who believes Mormonism is a cult to refuse to provide rooms to a family who walked in wearing Brigham Young T-shirts, indicating their religion. […]
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, wondered openly whether SB 1062 would provide new license for people like Warren Jeffs, head of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, to act against those who refuse to follow his edicts.
And Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, said the wording of the measure even would allow those who worship Satan to use their beliefs as a legal shield.
Yarbrough offered no counterargument to these claims, simply acknowledging that “the freedom of religion can be inconvenient.” He has previously said that such discrimination isn’t really a problem so long as there’s another business willing to provide the service nearby.
Sen. Steve Gallardo (D) attempted to add a provision requiring businesses that may wish to use their religious freedom to discriminate to post notices informing customers. Yarbrough made sure the amendment failed. Gallardo wasn’t surprised, pointing out that any business that openly advertises that it discriminates would be boycotted and go out of business. Some are concerned that the entire state of Arizona may face that fate, noting that many boycotted bringing any business to the state after it passed its strict immigration law in 2010.