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Arizona considers letting businesses refuse to serve gays

February 22, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
The Arizona legislature has just passed a bill that would make it legal for business owners to refuse service to a customer on religious grounds. The bill now goes to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who vetoed similar legislation last year. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council is asking her to veto this bill too, as its passage could have a negative impact on the state's economy.

This bill is in direct response to the gay marriage bills that have been passed across the country. Though Arizona has a statutory ban against gay marriage, it's not hard for legislators to see the writing on the wall. Sooner rather than later, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely declare bans against gay marriage unconstitutional, as district courts in various states already have.

The larger and thornier question that legislators will need to answer in coming years is how to balance the rights of religious people who object to gay marriage against the rights of gay couples. The Arizona bill was also likely inspired by a 2013 New Mexico court ruling that a wedding photographer there violated the state's anti-discrimination laws by refusing to take photos at the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple.

The problem with a law like Arizona's is that it would seem to violate various federal laws that require any business that provides a service to the public to serve everyone. A pharmacist can't refuse to fill a birth control prescription for an unmarried woman. A restaurant can't refuse to serve an interracial couple. Why exactly should Arizona business owners get away with refusing to serve a lesbian or gay couple? The answer is that they probably can't and, I would say, probably shouldn't. There's a clear difference between a church or synagogue or mosque, which cannot be required to marry a gay couple or allow gay couples to be members, and a religious individual or religiously affiliated organization that serves members of the general public. If Brewer signs this bill into law, it will probably be challenged in court and overturned, as it should be.


Article Comments



Mar-06-14 4:32 PM

So if I am a black family that owns a bakery and I refuse to make a cake for some guy that came in wearing his white robes? Not a lot of difference is there.


Feb-28-14 7:34 PM

Yeah, there's pagan origins for most Christmas and Easter traditions too. What was your point?


Feb-28-14 11:19 AM

Luckily, Arizona's governor has wisely vetoed this misguided legislation.


Feb-28-14 9:27 AM

It seems a bit strange to me for someone making wedding cakes with all the pagan symbolisms and origins, to refuse to make the pagan symbol for someone due to some supposedly strongly held christian belief.


Feb-27-14 11:35 PM

I think your safe slide.No gay in their right mind would spend one second with you.On second thought,no one would.Goinpeace

Feb-26-14 7:50 AM

There a number of legitimate reasons for a restaurant to refuse service, some of which include:

Patrons who are unreasonably rowdy or causing trouble Patrons that may overfill capacity if let in Patrons who come in just before closing time or when the kitchen is closed Patrons accompanied by large groups of non-customers looking to sit in Patrons lacking adequate hygiene (e.g. excess dirt, extreme body odor, etc.)

In most cases, refusal of service is warranted where a customer’s presence in the restaurant detracts from the safety, welfare, and well-being of other patrons and the restaurant itself.


Feb-25-14 10:30 AM

"Yes businesses can refuse to serve someone who walks in with no shirt or shoes. That's refusal of service on the basis of BEHAVIOR."

And what it is to be gay is based on a behavior. There's no way to determine that somebody is gay unless he/she chooses to act upon it in some fashion.


Feb-25-14 9:54 AM

Jeez, people, you're getting way too bent out of shape. I would shudder to think what life would be like if everyone guilty of every other sin were treated in similar manner.

Call out sin for what it is all you like, but take care not to get so high and mighty about it that you let pride get the better of you. I think one of the biggest mistakes many conservative Christians have made is acting like this is so much worse than any other sin.


Feb-25-14 7:33 AM

"Hankla wrote that the North Dakota State Fair is the owner of the property and generally the owner of property has the right to exclude others from its property."

Took this little gem from a different article, it looks like rights can also be wrongs.

Feb-24-14 9:53 PM

All I can say is, heckuva job Brownie.


Feb-24-14 7:58 PM

Bird,Can you please tell everyone in NORTH DAKOTA to stop speaking like daks.Its very annoying. Uffdah by golly.If you dont get my point,I will spell it out for you.Goinpeace


Feb-24-14 7:53 PM

I just love it.NO MORE SUPERBOWL GAMES, NO MORE ALLSTAR GAMES,NO MORE ON A LOT OF THINGS.Go for it ARIZONA,Cant wait for you to try to slime out of this one.Goinpeace.


Feb-24-14 6:33 PM

well most gays arent gay they are just looking for attention, and the way society acts anymore this action is incouraged and it does no good for confused people,


Feb-24-14 5:19 PM

Wow. This post really drew in the closed minded, didn't it? Refusing service to someone because they are gay is much the same as refusing service to someone because of the color of their skin. But I have an idea that many of you would also think that is alright. I agree with you, Andrea. I believe the law is unconstitutional but it doesn't surprise me considering Arizona's radical immigration stance. And, *******, I don't particularly like hearing about most sports, the vulgar language many people use with abandon, or what "Susie" did with her boyfriend last night. Move on and mind your own business.


Feb-24-14 3:30 PM

Um, don't we already have this thing called the "right to freely associate" with whomever we wish? That also means we are free not to associate with whomever we wish...


Feb-24-14 3:15 PM

well it is no different then when i have to listen to how gay sombody is i doent care and i doent want to hear about it, so if they have the right to talk about it in public i should have the right to not hear if there was a sign that said no gays i would go in there just to get away from them


Feb-24-14 1:24 PM

Again, that's BEHAVIOR. A bar owner should refuse service to a drunk and/or unruly customer. He is within his rights to do so. He should not be allowed to refuse service to someone on the basis of them looking like a gay or a lesbian, assuming that that person isn't behaving in a way that would get anyone else kicked out of the bar.


Feb-23-14 12:46 PM

I think it's arguable that businesses that post a sign saying they reserve the right to refuse to serve anybody are risking a lawsuit. Most people aren't going to bother and I don't really see why a gay couple wants a wedding photographer who doesn't like gay marriage. The photographer probably isn't going to do as good a job as someone whose heart is in the work. But if you're talking about a small town where the business is the only one providing a particular service, there is more of an issue and people will be more likely to sue.


Feb-23-14 11:38 AM

Many places of business have a sign posted that states, We reserve the right to refuse anybody. I see what you are saying, they want a law to protect the business's for what they are already doing.


Feb-23-14 11:08 AM

Yes businesses can refuse to serve someone who walks in with no shirt or shoes. That's refusal of service on the basis of BEHAVIOR. I imagine that a business owner would have a legitimate argument if he kicked out a gay couple who kept kissing over a table, provided that he has the same policy for public displays of affection between heterosexual couples.

The law that Arizona is considering would allow businesses to refuse to serve someone based on who they are, which is more comparable to a business refusing to serve an interracial couple. This law is most likely to apply to cases like the wedding photographer who didn't want to photograph the gay wedding. Maybe it will apply to the local grocery store that refuses to make a wedding cake with two brides or two grooms on top. Maybe it will apply to a business that doesn't want to provide health insurance for an employee's same sex partner. That's the sort of thing that I don't think is constitutional or should be allowed.


Feb-23-14 7:51 AM

No shirt, no shoes, no gays, no service. You would think it should be up to the business owner who he wants in his place of business. There have been gay people forever, my question is why don't they just act like regular people then nobody would have to make special concessions for them. It's like some of them feel the need to be very very noticed which is all they probably wanted in the first place. My personal feeling is the gays just like to shock and awe people for attention even if it is negative.


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