Arizona SB1062 -VETOED
An Arizona bill that was likely to have allowed some businesses to deny services to gays has been vetoed. Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona SB1062/HB2153, which would have allowed businesses to deny service based on religious beliefs. During her press conference about the veto, the governor said she had heard of no incident where a business owner’s religious liberty had been violated, and that the text of the new legislation was too broadly worded. See, Washington Post story. Arizona is just one of many states that are considering such legislation. See, Time’s story.
The House summary that was sent to the Governor on February 24, 2014, gives the following overview of the bill. Note the breadth of the language:
HB 2153 revises the definition of exercise of religion and person and extends the prohibition on substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion to applications of the law by nongovernmental persons.
The bill was to amend sections § 41-1493 and § 41-1493.01 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. These sections are part of Arizona’s “Free Exercise of Religion” law (its version of a state “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”). According to the summary, the existing law was passed after the United States Supreme Court held in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act may not be extended to state and local governments.
The summary’s overview of the bill’s provisions:
- Expands the definition of exercise of religion by including the practice and observance of religion.
- Expands the definition of person to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, or other business entity.
- Modifies, from government to state action, the prohibition on burdening a person’s exercise of religion, except under certain circumstances.
- Clarifies that the government or a nongovernmental person enforcing state action must demonstrate that the application of the burden to the person’s exercise of religion is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.
- Maintains that a person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this Act may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and specifies that this applies regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.
- Stipulates that a person that asserts a violation of this Act must establish the following:
- The person’s action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief;
- The person’s religious belief is sincerely held; and
- The state action substantially burdens the exercise of the person’s religious beliefs.
- Allows a person asserting a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, whose religious exercise is burdened, to receive injunctive and declaratory relief.
- Prescribes the definition of state action to include government action and the application of any law by a nongovernmental person and specifies that the requirements in statute relating to professional or occupational licenses and appointments to government offices are not included in the definition of state action.
- Makes technical and conforming changes.
While most of the news concerning this bill focused on the belief that business owners would be able to deny service to gays, the language of the bill speaks broadly of religious beliefs, expanding the definition to include the practice and observance of religion. Noting this fact, William Dameron posted the tongue-in-cheek blog post “Thank God for Arizona’s Religious Freedom Bill: One Gay Man’s View.” He pointed out that, for example, the bill would allow Arizona’s LGBT florists, hair stylists, and caterers to deny service to divorcees who are getting married; divorce is a sin. He states, “[b]ut here is the beauty of this bill. You as an LGBT individual get to decide which people offend you and your religious sensibilities. You get carte blanche!”