(PHOENIX) — A bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to customers based on personal, religious beliefs is now on the desk of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, as protests continue.
The state legislature passed the bill late Thursday, but not without a fiery debate.
“This is simply protecting religious freedom that is recognized and defended and supported in the First Amendment that the founders wanted, nothing else,” said Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, who sponsored the bill.
“There’s only type of equality,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, a Democrat. “And it’s equal.”
Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill last year but had not said whether she’d sign the latest measure into law.
In the US, 21 states have laws specifically prohibiting a business from discriminating based on sexual orientation.
States, however, including Kansas, Ohio and Idaho have tried to pass similar laws to Arizona’s bill and failed. Utah is now considering one.
In Tennessee, a senator came under fire from a celebrity chef and others in his district after he sponsored a bill like Arizona’s.
The push for this so-called “religious protection” legislation comes as many red states try to find ways to counter the growing support for same-sex marriage laws.
The gay community says the measure is blatant discrimination.
“I hate to see legislation used as a tool for discrimination,” said Darin Scott of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce Greater Phoenix. “And to me, that’s what this is.”
Is it a good for business to discriminate?
In Oregon, baker Aaron Klein, refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, saying it was about religious freedom.
“Unfortunately, I believe in what the Bible says and that’s how I feel about it,” Klein said.
The state investigated the discrimination claim and ultimately the bakery was shut down after public backlash.
“I’d rather stand up for what I believe in and what I think is right and get totally annihilated when it comes in the end then to bow down to this,” he said.
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