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Mechanism of the Arizona "anti-gay bill"?
February 24, 2014 7:12 AM   Subscribe

How does Arizona's SB 1062 work to protect those seeking to discriminate against others based on religious grounds?

I found the text of the bill here [PDF].

It seems to be an amendment to an existing law that protects religious institutions against state action for any actions or non-actions undertaken in accordance with their religious beliefs. the amendment extends that protection to any individual, business or other organization.

My question is, what would be the risk of legal trouble for someone engaging in religion-based discrimination absent this law in either its present or amended forms?

Presumably it would be useless against a constitutional challenge that otherwise had merit. If there is another law that could be used to bring suit, how is it determined which law takes precedence? Or does it just prevent the legal machinery from getting started to even consider the question on a state level? If so, is it only vulnerable to challenge at the Federal level?

I haven't been able to find any discussion of the actual details of the law anywhere, just the headline generating result. Can Ask Mefi's legal minds bring some clarity?
posted by rocketpup to Law & Government (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
My question is, what would be the risk of legal trouble for someone engaging in religion-based discrimination absent this law in either its present or amended forms?

IANAL. (Although I work in the legal field.) You're talking about public accommodations here. So, when a baker says he's not going to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because that's his right, the question is whether or not he is discriminating as a business owner (illegal) or whether he is practicing his religion (what this new law would make legal.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:16 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


what would be the risk of legal trouble for someone engaging in religion-based discrimination absent this law in either its present or amended forms?

The case that is most often cited by the supporters of the law is the case of a wedding photographer who was sued when she turned down a same-sex couple.

So, the risk of legal trouble is real and not hypothetical.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:32 AM on February 24


My question is, what would be the risk of legal trouble for someone engaging in religion-based discrimination absent this law in either its present or amended forms?

Violation of Arizona civil rights law, *if* courts agree or have agreed that existing law covers discrimination against gay couples either as some requirement of equal-protection or as part of Arizona's bar against sex discrimination.

If there is another law that could be used to bring suit, how is it determined which law takes precedence?

It varies. A general principle is that newer legislation beats older unless the new one says it doesn't, but courts have some capacity to decide that a new law that contradicts an older law in some way wasn't intended to have that effect, so the older one wins.

Or does it just prevent the legal machinery from getting started to even consider the question on a state level?

Some degree of judicial decision-making is almost impossible to avoid.

If so, is it only vulnerable to challenge at the Federal level?

No. It might be challenged as violating the Arizona constitution; state constitutions often have more clear and explicit guarantees of civil liberties and civil rights than the federal one does.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


I've read some commentary today (from two different sources) that think this new bill actually *restricts* the rights of the businesses. Currently it is not illegal in Arizona to refuse service based upon sexuality. This amendment would require the court decide which was more important: the state's role of protecting a class of citizen or the individual (or corporation's) right to practice religion.

In other words, right now you don't need a reason to discriminate. You can still be sued for discrimination, but there isn't a law that says you can't due it. The new amendment, however, would require a valid religious reason for discrimination.

I am not a lawyer, but I also work in the legal field.
posted by tacodave at 2:22 PM on February 25


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