Is Arizona set to become an "anti-gay Jim Crow" state? A week after Kansas nearly made law a bill proposing to legalize discrimination against gays on the basis of freedom of religion, a similar bill passed in Arizona last night, leaving Governor Jan Brewer five days to decide where to go from here.
Presumably having tired of discriminating against immigrants, on Thursday night the state House approved the bill against gays–and it's broad enough that it could be extended to hiring practices and public services, as well as racial minorities and women. The Senate passed the bill earlier in the week. Via the Arizona Republic:
Specifically, the legislation proposes to:
- Expand the state's definition of the exercise of religion to include both the practice and observance of religion.
- Allow someone to assert a legal claim of free exercise of religion regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceedings.
- Expand those protected under the state's free-exercise-of-religion law to "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization."
- Establish wording that says that in order to assert a free-exercise-of-religion defense, the individual, business or church must establish that its action is motivated by a religious belief, that the belief is sincerely held and that the belief is substantially burdened.
The bill, which is believed to be the most sweeping of its kind, is now on the the Governor's desk. The Arizona Daily Star reports that although Brewer has generally landed on the side of religious protection, opponents are pointing out that the bill, beyond being offensively discriminatory, is just bad for business. "We're telling them, 'We don't like you,'" Democratic House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said. "'We don't want you here. We're not going to protect you, we don't want your business, we don't want your money and we don't want your kind around here.'"
[Image via AP]