By a vote of 33-27 Thursday night, the Arizona House advanced a bill that would allow religion to be used to justify discrimination against LGBT people. The Senate previously passed it on Wednesday. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed an identical version of the legislation last year as part of a vendetta against the state legislature for not passing a budget, but may now sign it into law.
House Democrats spoke in loud opposition to the bill. Rep. Chad Campbell (D) repeatedly asserted that “this is state-sanctioned discrimination.” Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D) accused the Republican Party of wanting to promote hate, for which he was chastised on the floor. Newly appointed Rep. Demion Clinco (D) came out as the only openly gay House member and proceeded to identify how the legislation could be used to discriminate against him, such a taxi that would refuse to give him a ride. Other opponents conveyed that the business community was concerned there might be another national or international response that individuals would avoid spending their money in Arizona, noting also that the Super Bowl will be held there in 2015.
Among those who defended HB 2153 was Rep. John Kavanagh (R), who previously proposed a bill that would have made it a criminal offense for transgender people to use public facilities in accordance with their identities. He adjusted the bill to simply ensure that discriminating against trans people was legal. Other proponents of the bill claimed that the only purpose of the bill was to make sure that religious people do not have to “forfeit their rights” to open a business.
Similar bills in Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Maine have all failed over the past week.
This post has been updated to reflect the final roll call vote that followed the voice vote by the committee of the whole.