Lawmakers Still Backing Sb 1062

Decry coverage, pressure groups whose objections prompted governor’s veto

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Many Republican lawmakers continue to defend Senate Bill 1062 in the wake of Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto, including Rep. Brenda Barton (R-Payson).

The bill would have made it easier for businesses to refuse to do business with individuals based on religious beliefs. The bill would have required such businesses to document their religious objections, but would have then presumably given them additional protections against lawsuits.

However, the law spurred a national outcry and two weeks of intense politicking based on the assertion that it would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians and other groups. The National Football League was reportedly considering moving the Super Bowl out of Arizona if it passed and many businesses and political leaders urged Gov. Brewer to veto it.

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Rep. Brenda Barton

Rep. Barton voted for the bill, one of the first bills of the session to make it to the governor’s desk.

In response to an e-mail request, she said “my intent in voting for the bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, but the bill appears to have been mischaracterized by a vocal minority of groups and political activists as a weapon for religious intolerance. While I do not agree with opponents’ mischaracterization of the bill, the media maelstrom and public backlash is both damaging to our state and a distracting sideshow from the important business of the Legislature. I believe that equality is a two-way avenue of respect. Discrimination in any direction is both ugly and more importantly, destructive. Similarly, the fight for religious tolerance and religious liberty must be defended as a cornerstone of our republic and our Bill of Rights.”

Sen. Chester Crandell (R-Heber) and Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) also represent Rim Country in the Legislature, but they did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto statement said the bill “does not seek to address a specific and present concern related to Arizona businesses.” At a press conference, she said the bill’s broad wording would likely create more problems than it solved.

Ironically, existing state law does not interfere with the right of businesses to refuse service to anyone. Some legal experts said the law would have had little practical effect. Several existing state and federal laws guarantee freedom of religion — including the 1993 Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The roots of the controversy go back to a case in New Mexico in which a photographer turned down a job photographing a gay marriage. The couple sued and won a judgment against the photographer.

The religious freedom issue has also come into play in other policy debates, like whether a Catholic hospital could be required to perform abortions or whether religiously-based businesses had to provide health insurance that included prohibited practices, like abortion or birth control.

A number of other states including Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and South Dakota are all considering similar bills — but the Arizona Legislature struck first.

The bill provoked widespread national coverage, almost all of it negative. The state once again found itself the punch line on political commentary shows and the object of threats of boycotts and canceled conventions.

Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake both urged the governor to veto the bill, saying it would hurt businesses and give the state a black eye. After the veto, Sen. McCain put out a statement saying, “I appreciate the decision by Gov. Brewer to veto this legislation. I hope that we can now move on from this controversy and assure the American people that everyone is welcome to live, work and enjoy our beautiful state of Arizona.”

Even three of the senators who voted for the measure issued statements urging the governor to veto it. Sen. Jeff Dial (R-Chandler) issued a statement saying he’d made a mistake in voting for the law. “Keeping government out of Arizonans’ lives is always my primary objective when voting on legislation. I will always support Arizonans’ right to religious freedom and protection under the First Amendment. However, I believe this legislation, though drafted with sincere intentions, mistakenly sends a message to our citizens, our businesses and the nation that Arizona is not ‘open for business’ as the governor so eloquently said. Unfortunately, our great nation has a history of discrimination, and I now recognize that this legislation, albeit unintentionally, has the potential to re-open those wounds.”

However, the issue may resurface soon.

Another bill making its way through the Legislature would give anyone performing a marriage ceremony the right to refuse to preside based on religious beliefs. Many religions do not recognize gay marriage, some don’t recognize a marriage outside the same religion and some don’t recognize divorce — and therefore a right to remarry. Ministers already have the right to only perform ceremonies if they choose, however critics say the language of the law could apply to justices of the peace and other people who perform marriage ceremonies.

In addition, the Center for Arizona Policy, which backed SB 1062, is pushing for several other measures that could also draw attention.

The House has already approved HB 2284, which would allow the state health department to conduct unannounced inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant — which is similar to a bill introduced a decade ago by the Center that was ultimately overturned in court, according to a report in Capitol Times.

The Center has also backed a bill that would expand the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which direct tax money to private schools. In the 2013-14 school year some 750 students received about $10 million in state money to attend private schools, according to a report in the Cronkite News Service.

Another bill given preliminary approval by the House would lower the property tax assessments on any property leased to a religious organization, at a cost to the state of an estimated $2.1 million.

Comments

Meria Heller 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Since when are religions against making money? Didn't Jesus toss the money changers? This law would have been another embarrassment to the State of Arizona.

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H. Wm. Rhea III 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Sorry Meria, but it would've been a good law. It would've provided protection to small businesses, the ones most likely to have an objection to being forced to do business with someone who goes against your beliefs. I was sorry to see Gov. Brrewer cave in to large corporations and special interest groups.

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Mel Mevis 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you for the article. It just reinforces my belief that Rep. Barton does not have what it takes to be an elected official.

Our legislature keeps introducing legislation looking for a problem, not responding to a problem. We have real issues that need addressing, not imagined issues. We have issue with education, child protection, infrastructure repairs, wild land fires, campaign finance, campaign disclosures.

All most all of the legislation Rep Barton has been linked to is driven by a small special interest. I want someone in office who will address issues that are real, not someones pet issue.

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

According to a Williams Institute review conducted in April 2011, approximately 3.8% of American adults identify themselves either as lesbian or gay (1.70%), bisexual (1.80%), or transgender (0.30%); which would correspond to approximately 9 million of adult Americans as of the 2010 Census.

Now Mr. Mevis, you tell me who it is that has been ignoring "other issues" in favor of a small special interest group. These darn truths just keep getting in the way don't they? My suspicion is that there are far more small business persons of faith than there are GLBT folks in this nation. If you can factually dispute that, then lets have it.

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don evans 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Ron, your spot on. I am so sick and tired of the LGBT agenda being forced down our throats and in your face. The whole movement is to compel and enforce acceptance of a deviant life style and non normal sexual preference behavior. Also to create another special protected class of people. You also see the attempted acceptance brainwashing being conducted in public education by gay advocate activists. It's portrayed in various TV series under the guise of comedy entertainment. It's just a part of a larger subtle plan to remove another brick in the structure of historical American values and traditions of public decency. If someone is LGBT I don't need to have it displayed in my face to express their personal sexual choices and aberrant behaviors. If I choose not to accept the lifestyle based on my personal beliefs and value system, what's the problem? I have not made it impossible for them to be who they want to be or engage in the life of their choice. Heather has two mommies does not make a normal nuclear family. Yes, I used the normal word. Look it up in the dictionary.

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Mel Mevis 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Ron and Don,

My comment / concern is our legislature is wasting time trying to pass legislation that is not needed. Being gay is not protected in Arizona. If you want to discriminate against a gay go right ahead, it is not illegal. Of course neither of you is a bigot, so that would not happen.

I am sick and tired of our elected officials trying to make something out of nothing. Our legislature has more pressing issues, but they choose to waste time on stupid legislation.

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Mel,

I agree with you on some aspects of your position. The most pressing issue in the nation currently is the same as it was when Clinton first ran for POTUS. George Carville kept reminding him "It's the economy, stupid!". Until they get that issue fixed, then pretty much everything else is secondary in my book.

As to the "bigot" remark, my brother-in-law is gay as well as several friends. Have no truck with them personally, and we get along fine. I just find their chosen lifestyle to be un-natural and they know very well my views. Simple as that. Think perhaps you were simply projecting a bit with the insinuation.

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Art Goodoy 9 months, 2 weeks ago

This bill was an embarrassment for AZ. Thankfully our Governor did the right thing and vetoed it. Gays are citizens just like anyone else, as such they should be afforded the same rights. America is slow to do the right thing, but eventually we get it right. Equality for women, civil rights, and now gay rights are all major issues that this country has and will overcome.

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Art Goodoy,

Are you implying that "people of faith" should NOT be afforded the same rights.? Are they not "citizens" as well? With rights? Now the important question, did you actually read the text of the bill sent to the Governor to be signed?

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Art Goodoy 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I did read the bill, and any bill that allows a business owner to discriminate against any group of people for any religious reason is an embarrassment to the good state of Arizona. Forget the LGBT issue for a second. Should a business owner be allowed to refuse service to a pregnant woman because she conceived outside of wedlock? Should a business owner be allowed to refuse service to a christian because the store owner is muslim? Such a bill cannot stand and was rightfully vetoed. Ronald, I'm sorry you feel differently, but maybe you should read your bible a little more. Jesus Christ didn't treat people the way this bill attempted to. He loves everyone including gays, lesbians, and even ignorant rednecks.

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

" He loves everyone including gays, lesbians, and even ignorant rednecks."

So true and as a follower of Jesus Christ, I don't hate any of those people. I do however stand with God and His position relative to the act of homosexuality and ALL other sins. That Bible you mentioned also admonishes us to not associate (go with) with those who have chosen sin as their lifestyle. This bill was not written to permit discrimination against ANYONE, it was drafted to protect people (business owners) from being sued if they refused to participate in any function that violated their religious beliefs. Numerous legal scholars from across the socio/political spectrum reveiwed that law after the uproar from a vocal minority and said that the law did not permit discrimination against gays. So kindly take your inference of "ignorant redneck" and place it on those who cannot read simple legal language but react to hyperbole and emotion rather than the facts. If you happen to be one of those "legal scholars", I'm sorry your peers didn't agree with your reading of that bill. Have a nice day.

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Art Goodoy 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Ron you're a good dude. I love the passion. However, didn't Jesus hang out with surely fisherman and prostitutes? In fact didn't he generally stay away from religious types? Maybe I read the bible wrong too.

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Art, You again are correct. Christ took a very harsh and stern position relative to the "Religious Leaders" while He was here. The Sadducees and the Pharisees were so caught up in all their self importance relative to the "masses" that they really forgot what their purpose was to begin with. And yes, Jesus came to save the poor and disenfranchised of that time and in our time. As you said in the previous post, Jesus loves everyone. Rich, poor, black, white, purple, etc. He simply does not discriminate against anyone. It is sin that he hates, and He even admonishes us in His word for us to hate sin as well. As to your point about the prostitutes, He came to save the lost. If you recall what He told the woman at the well after telling her all that He already knew about her, was "go, and sin no more". Therein lies one of the most important lessons Christ left for us. We can be as "sinful" as they come, and all of us are, but if we are to follow Him, then we must make every human effort we can to leave those sins out of our lives. Having said that, Christ knew well and good that as long as we are in these fleshly bodies, we are always susceptible to falling into sin. That's the reason we needed a "Savior". There's absolutely nothing we can do to save ourselves. If we could Christ died for nothing.

On the point you touched in your original post, it is NOT homosexuals that I have an issue with, it is that they have chosen a "sin" that God specifically said was an abomination, as their chosen way of life. It is not some occasional sin we all succumb to on occasion, that is the pattern of their life. I believe it is that unwillingness to accept their lifestyle as sin, and turn from it, that causes such a rift between Christians and the LGBT community. As I said, I have gays in my family and in my circle of friends. I pray for them and do not wish them ill and they know that. But I cannot in my Christian faith reconcile their sinful lifestyle, no matter what laws are passed to try and force me to. I simply choose to side with God on that issue, and if someone has a problem with how He views homosexuality, they need to take that up with Him. I have a hard enough time keeping me on the path Christ has laid before me. He will ultimately judge us all.

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Art Goodoy 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Good stuff Ron. I can't argue with any of the above. You've got me thinking more about this bill. Help me out here.

A photographer agrees to photograph a wedding. He never meets the groom, only the bride. He shows up to the wedding and finds out there is no groom, rather there are two brides. Photographer feels that photographing this wedding somehow goes against his religious beliefs and refuses to shoot the wedding. The Brides are devastated and have suffered an actionable loss. This bill would protect the photographer from being suit for his choice to breach the contract. Right?

What if instead of a photographer you have our local helicopter services that flies acutely injured patients to valley hospitals. This company is a private company. What if the helicopter pilot, or dispatch operator refuses to transport a patient because he or she is gay. Patient doesn't die, but is irreparably harmed. This bill would also protect the helicopter company from being sued too. Am I right?

I have a problem with this. While I'm thinking about it, isn't the Payson Hospital privately owned as well? With more government services going private, this could get out of control quickly.

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Art,

I'll do the best I can to answer your questions. One caveat, I am not an attorney and do not do that well reading 'legalese" but tend to defer to people who can and do. Arizona currently has a law on the books called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It has been on the books since 1999. The legal scholars that reviewed the recently vetoed bill (SB 1062)said that all it did was make two additions to the existing law. One "clarifies that the definition of “person” includes all types of businesses and legal entities." The second "also ensures that a government enactment is not permitted to infringe on religious belief merely because the enactment allows for enforcement by a private individual." That's it! You tell me where either of those changes to the RFRA imply a person's right " to discriminate" against gays or anyone. I know you have seen the signs in many businesses in Arizona that state flat out "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone". Or this one "No shoes, No shirt, No Service". The right of business persons, in Arizona, is already established via existing state statutes. Now you can claim those laws are "discriminatory" on their face, but the laws allow business persons to provide their products and/or services to those they wish to and with hold them from those they wish to. No religious aspect is even mentioned in those laws.

Let me refer you to a site that can explain it better than I and maybe you can understand why the outcry over SB 1962 was due to ill informed and misled individuals who were looking to make it into something it never was. Those folks were agitated in their ignorance by minority interest groups and a manipulative media that simply refused to provide the truth.

http://www.azpolicy.org/bill-tracker/religious-freedom-restoration-act-sb-1062

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

As to your "what if's" where does a person even begin with such conjecture? Do you have actual examples of such having actually occurred or are you simply throwing stuff against the wall to see if it sticks? In the absence of RFRA, both at the state level and at the Federal level, it would mean doctors opposed to performing abortions on religious grounds would be forced to do them anyway. After all doctors are basically ":business persons" providing a service. And what about pastor or clergy being forced to perform same sex weddings when such violates their religious convictions? If the rights to religious freedoms as spelled out in the 1st Amendment are not protected from erosion or abuse, then none of our rights as defined in that Constitution are worth spit. The Constitution forbids the government from the "establishment a religion" and I know of no one who would not agree that such a prohibition is warranted. It also says the government "shall not forbid the free exercise of religion". It is that "free exercise" that is at the core of this issue. It seems as if you and many others wish to nullify the "free exercise of" simply because someone has gone into business. I simply do not agree with that position, as you have readily determined. Our "rights" are individual rights and do not end when we walk out the door and go to our businesses. If "equal protection under the law" is the means with which the GLBT folks feel they can be accepted into mainstream society, then how does that somehow void the "equal protection under the law" for those of religious faith? You tell me.

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Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Art,

I suspect , at some point a court is going to have to decide between the two disparate groups. Whether religious groups rights under the 1st Amendment trumps someone else's right to live a chosen homosexual lifestyle, or the GLBT folks free choice of that lifestyle trumps the religious rights of individuals as identified in the 1st Amendment. They will need the wisdom of Solomon if they take it on.

And before you continue to equate "sexual choice/identity" with race or gender, you may want to research medical studies as relates to whether a person is born with that inclination (gay) or it is simply something they feel more comfortable with and therefore choose.. I do not believe they have yet discovered a specific "gay" gene or DNA/RNA that is unique to LGBT persons. There simply is no moral, genetic or "natural" comparative between race, gender, and chosen sexual preference/identity. If you are aware of such, please share the info. As I've stated, there are "gays" within my family, as well as friends, and we have beat this subject to death. If the solutions were easy, they would have been accepted by now.

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