- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2014

Arizona lawmakers voted in favor of a measure that gives business owners, churches and individuals in the state the legal right to deny service to gays for religious reasons.

Democrats have already decried the measures as “state-sanctioned discrimination,” The Associated Press reported.

But supporters say the bill is necessary. Center for Arizona Policy legal counsel Josh Kredit said in the AP report: “We see a growing hostility toward religion.”

The bill passed 33-27 Thursday night and now heads to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer for final approval. The issue is likely to spark massive debate and discussion, and put Arizona back in the national spotlight just four years after it faced similar scrutiny from its hotly contested immigration crackdown, AP said.

But other states are gearing up for the same legislative debates.

Similar measures are going forth in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, AP reported. Arizona’s is just the first that’s passed.

Republicans maintain the bill is to protect religious rights, and is hardly discriminatory. One case that highlights the logic behind the measure stems from a suit filed against a New Mexico photographer who refused to take wedding pictures of a gay couple, AP reported.

Legislators in Arizona simply wanted to shore up the rights of private business owners to maintain their First Amendment religious freedoms, supports of the bill say. The bill specifically lets businesses, churches and individuals use the legislation in court defense of discrimination charges.