On February 20, 2014, the Arizona’s State Legislature passed State Bill 1062, which, if signed into law, would permit business owners, churches or any person to refuse to serve LGBT customers. This bill was passed under a religious exemption giving individuals the ability to act or refuse to act in a manner when it is substantially motivated by a religious belief “whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” The measure was first pushed by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy. They are defending the bill by saying that it aims at protecting religious freedom rights for all Arizona citizens.
In order to become enforceable the bill must be signed by Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer. Governor Brewer has until March 1, 2014 to decide whether to sign the law or to veto it. If she does not take any action, the bill will automatically go into effect 91 days after the current legislative session ends. The Governor is facing a lot of pressure to block the bill from gay rights defense groups as well as some prominent Republicans and even religious groups. For instance, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, took to his Twitter account to call Governor Brewer to block the bill: “veto of #SB1062 is right.” Arizona Senator John McCain, is also urging the Governor to block the passage of the bill because it “hurts the economy and the image of the state.” Besides, major companies such as Apple Inc. and American Airlines Inc. also requested the governor to veto the bill.
The bill does not mention directly LGBT individuals but it is clearly directed at them. This law would give local business owners immunity from discrimination lawsuits if they decide to exercise their right not to serve a gay individual and are motivated by a “sincerely held” religious belief and if providing service would substantially burden the exercise of those religious beliefs.
Similar laws protecting religious freedom have been introduced in other states senates such as Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma. However, Arizona’s bill is the only that was passed by the state legislature so far. Nevertheless, according to some preliminary reports, Governor Brewer is likely to veto the bill.
If you are an employee and you believe you have been discriminated against, please contact the Harman Firm P.C.