Religious Freedom Bill Heads To Governor's Desk

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 6:13pm
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 6:18pm
(Photo courtesy of the Arizona State Legislature)
Rep. John Kavanagh, R- Fountain Hills.

The state House passed a bill on Thursday that would give businesses and individuals the right to use religious beliefs as a defense against lawsuits. Critics said the bill will sanction discrimination against gay people.

What inspired the bill? The fact that a New Mexico photographer was sued for refusing to photograph a same sex commitment ceremony. The bill would allow that photographer here in Arizona to cite religious beliefs as a defense in court. In a lengthy floor debate, Democrats argued unsuccessfully that the legislation would be a black eye on the state.

"This is state sanctioned discrimination," said Rep. Chad Campbell.

Campbell said this legislation could supercede certain city ordinances, like Phoenix’s, that prevents discrimination against gays and lesbians.

"This bill will result in discrimination toward the LGBT community, there is no doubt in my mind about that. None," said Campbell.

But Campbell's argument did not sway Republicans. The bill passed 33-27. GOP Rep. John Kavanaugh said an overly politically correct culture is threatening peoples’ right to their faith.

"All this bill does is protect the religious freedoms that the people who began this country came to establish," said Kavanaugh.

Similar bills pending in other states like South Dakota and Kansas had setbacks this week, but in Arizona, the Senate has already approved this legislation which means it heads to the governor’s desk.

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