Arizona Senator Defends ‘License to Discriminate’ Bill: Jewish Caterers Shouldn’t Have To Serve Pork


Arizona State Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R).

Another Arizona state Senator has taken to CNN to try to justify the state’s “license to discriminate” bill (SB 1062), which would allow business owners to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to refuse service to LGBT people. Just like his colleague Sen. Al Melvin (R), Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R), who helped write the bill, could not provide an example of what problem the legislation was trying to fix. He did, however, present a hypothetical situation that it might prevent:

YARBROUGH: The hypothetical that I think is the most useful is: let’s assume that we have three gentlemen who are devout Jewish fellows who form a corporation and go in the catering business. And they’re doing that and then I come to them and I say, “I’d like for you to cater my event, but I would like for you to provide pork products.” And they say, “Well, I’m sorry. Our sincerely held religious beliefs prevent us from doing that.” And my response is, “Well then I sue you, and I get damages against you.”

Watch the full interview, in which Yarbrough explains to Randi Kaye his understanding of how the bill works:

Yarbrough’s hypothetical is not only unrealistic, but entirely irrelevant.

First of all, “people who like to eat pork” do not qualify as a protected class of people. Conversely, though Arizona does not have state-wide LGBT protections, many of its cities do, including Phoenix, the sixth most populous city in the country. SB 1062 would allow business owners in those cities to use their religious beliefs to violate municipal provisions and refuse service to LGBT customers.

Secondly, the hypothetical Jewish catering company presents a false comparison. Caterers and restaurants can decide their own menus; the question is whether or not they serve all people equally. By Yarbrough’s reasoning, a customer could successfully sue McDonald’s for not serving sushi. But same-sex couples are seeking the same services that businesses already provide: wedding cakes, wedding flowers, and wedding photography. Refusing products that are “on the menu” to same-sex couples is simple discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It’s important to note that Yarbough is citing the unanimous New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that Elane Photography did violate state nondiscrimination law by refusing wedding photography for a same-sex commitment ceremony. That’s exactly the kind of discrimination he wants the bill to ensure is possible. In fact, when he introduced the bill last month, Yarbrough seemed to have no problem with LGBT people, religious minorities, or other groups being refused service by various businesses. He reasoned that as long as a different nearby business was willing to provide the same service, then the discrimination was no big deal. He had no suggestions for what might happen if all businesses in an area decide to discriminate in the same way.