Arizona SB 1062 is a legislative Act in the U.S. state of Arizona, introduced by Senator Steve Yarbrough. The bill is one of several state bills that would allow anyone in the state to legally refuse business or service to any person based on religious freedom. The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, along party lines, it was also passed by the Republican-controlled state House. Governor Jan Brewer, also Republican has until February 28 to act. The bill will become law if she does not either sign or veto the bill, only once has she allowed a bill to become law without her signature.
It would be a first-of-its-kind amendment to religious freedom laws in the U.S.
The bill was established, in part, to address public accommodation laws that prohibit denying services based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Twenty-one states have similar laws. Arizona does not have a public accommodation law, but state lawmakers were concerned about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was cited in a recent New Mexico case. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that it could not be invoked between two parties, if the government was not a party to the legal proceedings.
Section 41-1493 of the Arizona Revised Statutes regulates who can claim religious freedom or exercise thereof as a defense in a lawsuit. AB 1062 revises that law by expanding the definition of who is a person to "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity", and allows for religious-freedom lawsuits "regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding."
Critics say that the bill would allow religious-based discrimination against any group of people for any religious reason. While the intended target of the bill is to allow businesses to refuse to serve the LGBT community, specifically in the cases of same-sex couples, the language of the bill would allow any business to use any religious belief to discriminate against any group. Critics also note that targeting LGBT people was redundant as under Arizona law, they have no special protections, so businesses do not need protection for something they cannot be sued for.
Business elders, civil rights groups, and gay rights groups have opposed the bill. As state law already allows discrimination against LGBT people, business owners have noted they would only be losing business by discriminating, and do not need extra protections. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine law school, noted the bill is harmful, "because it sends a message that the state is bigoted." Supporters of the bill include two conservative groups, the Center for Arizona Policy, and the Defending Freedom Alliance, both of whom worked on the bill. The Arizona Catholic Conference has called on its congregants to support the bill. Three lawmakers that initially voted for the bill, including Senate Majority Whip Adam Driggs, have since encouraged Governor Brewer to veto it. 
The bill is similar to bills in five other states—South Dakota, Kansas, Idaho, Tennessee, and Maine—that all failed or faced major setbacks in February 2014. Similar bills were proposed in Georgia and Ohio, along with a state constitutional amendment in Pennsylvania. A ballot initiative along similar lines was started in Oregon.
Last modified on 25 February 2014, at 07:30