Arizona bill allows businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian customers

Gay Couples / Lesbians

PHOENIX, AZ – Arizona’s Legislature has passed a controversial bill that would allow business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.

The bill, which the state House of Representatives passed by a 33-27 vote Thursday, now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican and onetime small business owner who vetoed similar legislation last year but has expressed the right of business owners to deny service.

As expected, the measure has drawn criticism from Democrats and business groups who said it would sanction discrimination and open the state to the risk of damaging litigation.

On Friday, the LGBT group Wingspan staged a protest march to the governor’s office that drew about 200 people. Some carried signs with messages “God created us all equal” and “Shame on Arizona.”