Arizona Under Fire Over Gay Discrimination Bill

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arizona is finding itself awash in negative attention this week after the state legislature passed a measure that grants business owners the right to cite religious liberty in refusing to serve gay customers.

Protesters marched through downtown Tucson, Arizona over the weekend in part of a larger effort to stop Arizona Governor Jan Brewer from signing the bill into law. She is expected to make a decision by the end of the week.

Already, three Republican state senators who originally voted for the bill have publicly rescinded their votes asking Governor Brewer to veto it.

And even some religious leaders are now speaking out.

“I think using religion to extend bigotry doesn't speak well for religion," said Arizona pastor Scott Opsahl. "So I think they are using religion to advance their own political ends.”

Small business owners are also concerned that the bill will drive away potential customers if it becomes law. One of them is Angela Saban, a wedding planner and cake designer from Glendale, Arizona.

"If this bill passes, I can see this being a huge problem," says Saban. "Arizona is a destination wedding site. Ninety percent of the weddings that I do are destination weddings."

Saban says that if this bill passes it is likely some of her customer base will drop off because couples—both gay and straight—may view Arizona as a place of intolerance and choose another location for their wedding. She adds that members of her community and other small business owners in Arizona are against the bill, which is formally known as SB1062. 

"There are a few people out here who are not against it and feel that they deserve the right to voice their opinion regarding their religious beliefs and if they're against gay marriage, they should be able to turn gay customers away for that reason," she says.

Saban says that the bill seems counter-intuitive because in some Arizona cities there are laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, which sends mixed messages to businesses and communities. 

"It looks like we're all fearful of the gay community or anyone who doesn't have the same religious belief that we have," she says. "If they can tell me as an employer in hiring employees that I cannot discriminate—and that law was passed last year in the city of Phoenix—that I cannot discriminate against a gay person, that I have to, if they are just as capable as doing a job as anyone else, that I have to hire them or I can't fire them because they're gay, then why would they give me the right to turn down a customer because they're gay? It makes no sense to me."

Update: After intense pressure, Gov. Brewer announced late Wednesday night that she would veto SB1062. In a televised address from Phoenix, Gov. Brewer said the bill was worded too broadly and could result in "unintended and negative consequences" for the state.


Angela Saban

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [8]

MC from Queens

12 Additional States currently have similar laws pending on their books. What ever happened to the seperation of Church and State? Are we harkening back to the Moral Majority or are we speeding dangerously close to establishing an American Taliban?

Feb. 27 2014 02:05 PM
Ed from Larchmont

The question is not the denial of services to gay persons, like restaurants or anything else. It's a question of working to make something come about (a gay marriage) which is against one's conscience to approve, for example providing flowers or music or the cake.

Feb. 27 2014 08:54 AM
Margaret Middleton from Mississippi

I'm with Pappy from Fort Mill, only I couldn't phrase it that elegantly. My own thinking ran more to the "You don't have to worry about that nonsense if you do business with ME".

Fortunately, the governor had an attack of sanity and vetoed the bill.

I heard on a later show on the Mississippi Public Broadcasting, that OUR Ledge has something scarily similar in the pipeline. I thought we went through all that a generation ago.

Feb. 26 2014 08:46 PM
Liz Livingston

I think it's important to recognize that protecting others' religious liberties (by signing the bill into law) isn't going to drive business away from those who serve gay couples. It will do precisely the opposite. So I think the argument about her income stream suffering is flawed.

I also think it's valuable not to lump those who want religious liberty protection with those who aren't kind or who are judgmental, as Mrs. Saban seemed to suggest. It's not a question of judging others to want to protect the same liberties for which our forefathers risked their lives to establish.

Feb. 26 2014 03:58 PM
Pappy from Fort Mill SC

Doesn't the passage of this bill provide businesses who do not discriminate the opportunity to reach out to the LGBT community and offer their services? Why fault the whole state for the close minded decisions of a few?!! Angela Sable's wedding planning business should be able to take off. Is the LGBT community so closed minded to believe that individual businesses are resposible for the dictates of government?

Here's a question for Mr Sable, "Did the exodus of migrant construction workers from AZ (closed minded folk at work again) leave the State void of ANY qualified American construction workers???" And here I am thinking that all of the jobs were being lost to "illegal" immigrants. AZ, I guess, is a lot like the Carolinas, wonderfully skilled immigrants working for the American that is reluctant to hire other "legal" Americans.

Feb. 26 2014 02:49 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Will every restaurant in Arizona be equipped with some sort of Gaydar Radar?

Do restaurants have booklets to tell Waiters "How to tell who is Gay before they order the quiche."

I live in New York, everybody is Metro-sexual. Nobody can tell who is gay. We just know that we're all too tired to have sex of any kind and that it is costly to do it, or to care about what someone else is doing or even thinking.

Even Putin said nothing about not feeding Gay people during the Olympics in Sochi.

Does Arizona think they can starve the gayness out of people?
"O.K. Look straight, here comes the waiter. Order something masculine."
"What's masculine?"
"Get a cheeseburger with bacon!
"Can I get a turkey burger?"
"No! Make it buffalo!"

Feb. 26 2014 12:36 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Allowing for businesses to refuse service to gays is very similar to what the southern states did to those of color otherwise known as the Jim Cro Laws. Also, if this bill does pass, it will become a slippery slope to allow for other hate mongers to deny other people of certain groups because they will claim that they are just exercising their rights as a private business. Just one thing to understand, when you are serving the public, every customer should be allowed in, or it will be bad for business. Why should a business owner car about someone's sexuality anyway? Isn't them being a paying customer a good thing? I really do hope that Governor Jan Brewer will veto and kill this bill, because it feels like the Jim Cro Laws of the 21st century.

Feb. 26 2014 11:15 AM
Miscellaneous from NYC

Any business stupid enough to turn down the business offered by any segment of the population in a given region is stupid; however, in this instance, businesses that refuse to serve gay customers are going to be boycotted not only by the LGBT community, but by all their friends and relatives. as well, and those businesses will not be operating for long. Ya buys yer ticket and ya takes yer chances.

In addition, who's to say whether any given customer is gay? Sexual orientation is a given in the bedroom, not at a dry cleaning establishment's front desk or a liquor store's cash register. Any establishment that refuses to serve someone they THINK is gay and who turns out not to be is going to be sued up the wazoo.

Good going, Arizona! Way to think things through.

By the way, without legislation, any establishment can refuse to serve any potential customer for whatever legitimate reason, so how about if every business suddenly decides not to serve people from Arizona just because? I can see the signs now: "No shirt, no shoes, from Arizona? No service." What goes around comes around.

And to those who think they are doing this because they are "good Christians," I believe there is a line in the bible that states: Love thy neighbor as thyself."

Feb. 26 2014 10:46 AM

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