The Arizona senate has passed a new bill, which allows business owners to deny services to homosexual customers. Similar legislation has cropped up in numerous states throughout the nation. Critics argue that the legislation condones discrimination.
Similar legislation, aiming to “turn away the gays,” has been introduced in several states, including Kansas, Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Those who oppose the bills are concerned the more states are prepared to follow suit.
As reported by MSNBC, similar legislation is also being considered in Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah. Although the bills are criticized as promoting discrimination, those who support the legislation argue that they are protecting religious freedom.
As several states have legalized gay marriage, couples have sought wedding-related services. Some business owners, who provide flowers, cakes, photography, and decor, have refused to serve homosexual couples. The business owners argue that gay marriage is against their religious beliefs.
However, many couples have sued the business owners for damages, claiming that they were discriminated against for their sexual preference.
In New Mexico, the senate recently ruled that a homosexual couple had the right to sue a photographer. The photographer refused to take pictures at couple’s wedding because they were gay.
The legislation was developed to protect business owners from discrimination lawsuits. The Kansas Family Policy Council has shown strong support for so-called “turn away the gays” legislation:
“[The laws] would extend important legal protections to individuals, business owners and religious institutions when it comes to their rights to stand on their religious views when declining to participate in and celebrate homosexual ‘weddings.'”
Although a similar bill was recently turned down by the Kansas senate, the Arizona senate passed SB 1062 in a 17-13 vote. Arizona Star reports the legislation will allow business owners to refuse services to gays — if homosexuality is against their “sincerely held” religious beliefs.
Arizona Senator Steve Yarbrough voted in support of the bill. Yarbrough said the “bill is not about discrimination… it’s about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”
Tennessee Equality Project spokesman Chris Sanders fought similar legislation in his state. He said the bills are blatantly discriminatory:
“We think it’s overly broad, and encourages a variety of businesses and service providers to discriminate against married same-sex couples… That’s why we call it the ‘Turn the Gays Away’ bill.”
Gay marriage will certainly remain a hot topic of debate. As couples throughout the nation are granted the right to legally marry, other rights are now being questioned. The Arizona senate is only one of many who will be faced with similar decisions.