A House panel voted Tuesday to give individuals, and the businesses they own, more rights to refuse to provide services based on their religious beliefs. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.
There already are laws that give some protection from government regulation to those who have sincerely held religious beliefs. This measure would extend those protections to those facing civil suits brought by individuals who say they’re the victims of discrimination. Rep. Martin Quezada said he fears this will essentially legitimize the practice.
“This clearly allows anyone who should normally comply with state or local laws that are neutral to claim that those laws burden their religious beliefs,” Quezada said.
But, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said the measure protects business owners from being forced to do anything that would violate their faith. He said it’s a matter of tolerance.
“But, the other side doesn’t want that. They want the tolerance to be I’m going to tolerate their opinion and my opinion counts for nothing. Yet it’s me and my property right, me and my religious belief,” Farnsworth said.
Proponents and foes did agree on one thing: Nothing in this legislation will take away the rights of gays. But, that’s because, unlike other states, they have no special protections under Arizona law. And, that means there is no basis to sue an individual or business owner on claims of discrimination because of sexual orientation.