Arizona Senate Passes Bill Allowing Anti-Gay Discrimination

The Arizona Senate on Wednesday passed a bill backed by Republicans that would expand the rights of people to assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays and others, a measure Democrats say would open the doors for discrimination and hurt the state economy.

Democrats and civil-rights groups opposed the bill pushed by social conservatives, saying it would allow discriminatory actions by businesses.

The bill’s passage on a 17-13 party-line vote came just days after a similar House-approved bill in Kansas was squelched by Republicans and Democrats in that state’s Senate chamber following public outcry and opposition from groups including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Arizona Democrats sponsored eight hostile amendments in an effort to sidetrack the legislation here, but they were rejected by Republicans, who control the Senate.

Democrats repeatedly said they believed Yarbrough’s legislation was designed to allow discrimination.

“The heart of this bill would allow for discrimination versus gays and lesbians,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “You can’t argue the fact that bill will invite discrimination. That’s the point of this bill. It is.”