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Rights of refusal


Arizona gained national attention again last week when the legislature decided they needed to “protect religious freedom” by allowing businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians.

Of course, protests have been held, threats to punish all of Arizona have been made and backlash is strong.

Here’s my thoughts on the entire subject – Why in the world are Arizona lawmakers using taxpayer dollars to pass such a pointless bill?

I believe that any private business owner has the right to refuse service to anyone. Anyone who believes otherwise is wrong. If you are gay, lesbian or have strong religious beliefs, it is wrong to be denied service, but it is also the right of that business owner to deny you those services.

I don’t believe we need this kind of law on our books, and because of that, I hope Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes it.

The two-page Senate Bill 1062, would give business owners the right to defend refusing services to someone when the owner believes doing so would violate their religious beliefs.  I question how business owners will know, especially in stores. Are people going to need to get gay or straight identification cards? Just seems like a lot of commotion over something so pointless. In the name of religion, are business owners going to demand prospective customers to disclose sexual preference?

Supporters, such as local Sen. Al Melvin, are calling it the “religious freedom” bill.

In a statement on Monday, Melvin, a candidate for governor, said the bill, “Protects the rights of every Arizonan to work and live according to their faith. It prohibits punishing someone because of their faith. It is common sense, it is good law, it was carefully crafted, it was supported by more than 90 percent of the Republicans in the legislature, and I strongly urge the governor to sign the bill.” 

Arizona lawmakers voting in favor of the bill stress a bill like this must be passed to protect businesses because of what happened in New Mexico, where the state’s Supreme Court ruled that a photography company discriminated against a same-sex couple when in 2006 it refused to photograph a civil-commitment ceremony.

New Mexico has a specific law, the Human Rights Campaign, that allowed this case to go through, and this photography company to get sued.

While I disagree with the photography company turning the couple away because of their sexual preference, I equally disagree with an American law giving that couple the right to sue and win over it. A private business owner should have the right to refuse service to whomever they choose.

We here in America some times forget that everyone has rights – that means that everyone shouldn’t have to agree on principles, morals and values. In fact, this photography company should be given the right to say they don’t want to shoot a wedding, or ceremony that they disagree with. They are the ones turning away business, losing money and can be labeled closed minded, but at the end of the day, they should have the right to do so.

Arizona does not have a law such as the Human Rights Campaign, so what is the need for SB 1062?  According to a Los Angeles Times report, proponents of the bill feel freedom of religion is too important to leave to chance, as stated by Joe LaRue, an attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom who helped draft the Arizona bill.

In the end, it’s a fear that the expansion of gay rights and other rights is going to restrict religious freedom. If that’s the case, both sides have it wrong.