One day after the state House passed legislation that allows for business owners to assert their religious beliefs when refusing service to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, among other groups, the decision has gained national attention and has been the topic of conversation on social media.
The Arizona House approved the bill on a 33-27 vote early Thursday evening, with two Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition. The state Senate passed the bill a day earlier on a straight 17-13 party-line vote, The Associated Press reported.
Once Gov. Jan Brewer gets the bill she has five days to sign it into law or veto it.
Andy Izquierdo, vice president of corporate affairs with PetSmart, which has its headquarters in Phoenix, said that, from a business perspective, it's best to be inclusive and this bill does the opposite.
"We think it’s not a good think for businesses to have that kind of approach so to be able to say, ‘We are representative of everyone in the county everybody in Arizona our LGBT community, our African American community our Hispanic community’ I think it’s important," he said.
Supporters of the bill say it simply modifies the definition of freedom of religion, opponents say it encourages discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Republican Sen. Al Melvin of Tucson said religious freedom is the reason he voted to approve the bill, and said it is a "response to attacks on the conservative elements in society."
“Parts of our society, the Boy Scouts, the military, traditional marriage, you name it, so this bill is an attempt to protect pastors and individual owners of companies where they’re not forced to do something that is contrary to their religious beliefs, they feel strongly about traditional marriage and they don’t want to participate in something that they believe is detrimental to traditional marriage as defined between one man and one woman," he said.
Critics of the bill say the language in the legislation is broad and could extend to discriminating against anyone, which includes people of other religions or unmarried women.
“I genuinely believe this is a bad bill with unintended consequences and I think anytime you start excluding people from the commerce of our society based on beliefs of protected class I think you’re on very shaky and dangerous ground," Republican Rep. Ethan Orr of Tucson said.
Orr said he called Brewer's office Friday morning, and when he speaks with her, he is going to ask her to veto the bill.