Arizona Passes Bill Legalizing Anti-Gay Discrimination, Now Awaits Governor's Signature

After being rejected by Kansas and Idaho, legislation to legalize anti-gay discrimination may have a new life in Arizona. On Thursday, both chambers of the Arizona’s legislature passed a bill that would allow both businesses and government agencies to turn away gay people if doing so is “substantially motivated by a religious belief.” The bill now heads to Governor Jan Brewer’s desk; if she signs it, police officers, medics, hotel managers, landlords, and anybody else in a professional capacity will be legally permitted to refuse services to anyone if doing so conflicts with their “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

Horrified at the nation’s slow but gradual realization that LGBT people are, in fact, human beings, many red state Republicans have been pushing measures to explicitly allow anti-gay discrimination by both public and private entities. Both Kansas and Idaho proposed bills to do so earlier this month; both times, the legislation failed to advance far enough to reach the governor’s desk. Similar measures failed in South Dakota, Tennessee, and Maine earlier in the week. But Arizona lawmakers had no difficulty passing the bill, and it’s now one signature away from becoming law.

The Arizona bill is actually even more far-reaching than some of the other states’ proposals, as it doesn’t single out sexual orientation as the only permissible grounds on which to discriminate. In addition, it specifies that discrimination is permissible “whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” This means that grocery store manager, for example, could legally refuse to sell food to black Arizonans and justify it as a religious belief, regardless of what the religion’s creed actually says.

Will Brewer sign the bill? That’s unclear. On the one hand, she vetoed a similar bill last year; on the other hand, she vetoed because, at the time, she was vetoing every bill that landed on her desk to protest the state legislature’s refusal to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. So it’s impossible to gauge how she feels about the substance of the bill based on that veto.

Either way, the Brewer has five days to sign it, veto it, or do nothing and allow it to become law without her signature. The clock is ticking.