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What's behind Arizona plan to let businesses refuse to serve gays?

February 22, 2014|By Paresh Dave

“On the one hand, the Constitution provides free exercise of religion,” Massaro said. “Government has to do that, but if it goes too far in providing rights, it starts establishing religion and giving religious actors rights that lead to religious favoritism. It has to navigate between those."

She added that there’s no question given the cases before the Supreme Court -- about whether businesses must provide health coverage for contraception as part of Obamacare -- that  questions are being raised about the proper balance between religious autonomy and an individual’s right to services.

"The Civil Rights Act of 1875 required American business to serve regardless of race," she said. "What’s the difference between that 19th century -- which we’ve ended -- and this debate? For some people, it’s resurrecting the old debate about whether there should be limits on a commercial actor’s right to not serve.”

Why the uproar?

"The law [in Arizona] already says you have a right to discriminate against gays and lesbians," Chemerinsky said. "Businesses have stronger reason not to discriminate because it would mean they would lose business."

And plenty of business owners have noted just that, saying they don't discriminate and they don't need more protection.

"It’s harmful because it sends a message that the state is bigoted," Chemerinsky said.

Who supports SB 1062?

The measure was cosponsored by three Republican senators, and 50 out of 53 Republican lawmakers voted for it. Two conservative groups helped work on the measure: the Center for Arizona Policy and Defending Freedom Alliance. The Arizona Catholic Conference has urged congregants to back the measure.

Who is against SB 1062?

Business leaders, civil liberties groups and gay rights groups have opposed SB 1062. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton warned that it would revive the impression that Arizona is intolerant, damaging the state's economy.

Also opposing SB 1062 are several Republican candidates seeking to replace the termed-out Brewer as governor in this year's election. Among the opponents are Secretary of State Ken Bennett, State Treasurer Doug Ducey, attorney Christine Jones, former healthcare executive John Molina and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Two others have not weighed in, and a third voted for it in the Legislature, according to the AP.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) hopes Brewer vetoes it, he said Saturday on Twitter.

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