Ariz. Legislature Ok's Faith Protections Bill

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The Arizona legislature has approved a measure that protects business owners who refuse to serve gays based on their religious beliefs.

The bill, which passed the state House Thursday in 33-27 vote, allows individuals, churches, and businesses accused of discrimination to claim religious freedom as a defense.

Supporters said the legislation is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts.

"Please, I will accept you because you are a child of God, I love you because you are a child of God," State Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-District 12, said. "But please don't ask me to go against my religious beliefs."

But gay rights activists argue the measure will allow discrimination against gays.

"The Arizona Senate bill is blatantly unconstitutional," the Los Angeles Times quoted Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"It violates the requirement of equal protection of the laws by openly singling out a particular group of people and saying it's okay to discriminate against them," she said.

The bill will now head to the office of Gov. Jan Brewer for her signature.

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