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home : opinion : editorials May 24, 2016


1/19/2014 6:00:00 AM
Editorial: Do-nothing legislation redefined

Alan Choate
News Editor


He's back!

That would be state Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, who's re-filed a "religious freedom" bill that's not really about religious freedom and is also, by his own admission, completely unnecessary.

He tried something similar last year with a bill that passed the Legislature but was vetoed. On its face, that proposal appeared to make breaking the law a lot easier if someone claimed his or her behavior was part of a religious observance.

This year's amended effort, SB1062, is aimed at protecting Arizona businesses if they refuse service on religious grounds, according to Yarbrough.

The specific case he's worried about happened in New Mexico - a lesbian couple successfully sued a wedding photography company, Elane Photography, after the company refused to photograph the couple's commitment ceremony. The photographer didn't want to create images contradicting the view that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

The case worked its way up to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which supported previous rulings that Elane Photography was in the wrong. The business is a public accommodation, the courts ruled, which in New Mexico means they cannot deny service based on "race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, spousal affiliation, or physical or mental handicap."

It's a sensible and legally defensible ruling. After all, a restaurant that's open to the public can't refuse to host a rehearsal dinner on the grounds that the couple's gay. Nor could a hotel reject their honeymoon reservation for that reason. Under the law, refusing service because someone's gay is the same as denying someone service because they're black, or Jewish, or single, or from North Korea.

As other commentators have noted, however, some First Amendment issues do creep in to the Elane Photography case. A photography business is different than a restaurant or hotel, since photography is an art form, and art has free speech protections.

That's what the photographers argued in the New Mexico case - as artists, they shouldn't be forced by government guidelines to photograph something they find objectionable. The courts rejected that in finding that the business is a public accommodation that does business with the general public.

Still, it's a point to consider: Do artists and content creators have the ability to choose their subjects without fear of lawsuits? Of course they do. I doubt "Sports Illustrated" could be sued for only using fit female models in their swimsuit issue, and if, say, the Aryan Nation invited me to edit their newspaper, they couldn't sue me when I refused.

Writing for the Outside the Beltway website, Doug Mataconis came up with one possible solution: "Should an artist be forced to create a work of art of anyone, or should they be free to refuse service in particular cases? Answering yes to this question would preserve artistic freedom, but it would also mean that anti-discrimination laws such as the one in New Mexico would still be applicable to ordinary vendors such as bakers, caterers and reception hall owners."

You could make a case for that approach. Writing a legally sound law that in effect creates a special class of businesses? Good luck with that.

But, back to our friend Sen. Yarbrough. His bill was voted out of committee last week and heads to the full Senate. He said concerns about widespread discrimination are overblown, since federal civil rights protections remain in place. He also acknowledged that existing state law is probably adequate to handle his concerns.

So, we've got a non-existent problem that will be fixed by a bill that won't do anything.

Thanks, Legislature!

Related Stories:
• Column: A higher level of religious freedom

Related Links:
• Court Holds That Wedding Photographer Cannot Refuse Service To Gay Couples


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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Article comment by: Amaryllis Smith

I would like to know since did it become legal for some elected or appointed Judge to overturn the majority of the People's vote to suit themselves??
I see this as a real problem when those in politics are trying to get people to the polls and the People say for What Reason, I can vote one way only to have some liberal far left judge overturn it.
I can't think of a time before California's Prop.8 that such a thing has happened. I don't think 2,3,4 or even 6 same sex couples? should be able to sue either because the voters didn't vote their way.
This country and our constitution are in Big Trouble if this BS isn't stopped!!


Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Article comment by: Oh Ya

"Personally, I AM SICK & TIRED OF THE LBGT and all their whining!!!!!!!!!"

I have to agree, now answer me this. Why did that NFL dude find it necessary to come out of the closet? As far as I know there was no rule forcing him to reveal his sexuality. His teammates would eventually find out but if he got fired, he have a case against them. Now he will not get hired, and it will be difficult for him to prove it was because he's gay.


Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Article comment by: Amaryllis Smith

I don't think anyone should have to be made a party to anything Gay and this frivolous lawsuit is just another example of gay people cramming their chosen lifestyle down everyone else's throat. If these people want to behave in a non-natural way I don't care, they will answer for it at some point in time and those who disapprove should not have to be subjected to it nor should any aspect of their own life, socially, morally, businesswise or legally.
Everyone seems to forget about STDs and HIV being one of the deadliest ones.
New Mexico used be a very socially conservative state but, I don't know what the hell happened to it!
Personally, I AM SICK & TIRED OF THE LBGT and all their whining!!!!!!!!!
This country is turning into a Moral Sewage Pit!
Don't smoke a regular tobacco cigarette but, enjoy your brain cell killing POT and UNATURAL SEX, and while at it, Be Sure You Let Everyone Else in the country KNOW IT!!!!!
Since homosexual behavior is an abomination to God, I don't think it's wrong for me to agree with Him!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Actually, OKR, that isn't exactly correct altho many believe 9 of the original 13 had state-established religions.

None of the states from the American Revolution era on established any single State religion/denomination but provided equal protection for all as readings from their various states shows.

"There shall be no establishment of any one religious sect..in preference to another". NJ

"And each and every society or denomination of Christians in this State shall have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights and privileges" CT

Because religious issues often fell under local controls and many states had an overwhelming majority of one denomination ie: CT/Congregationalists, what appeared as state establishments were nothing more than the universal preference of that regions people.

For instance, HI is universally Democrat, not state mandated but preference of the people.


Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

“I know what it's ORIGINAL INTENT was, still is.”

It is fascinating how Ms Athens “KNOWS the original intent” of th founding fathers.

“Have studied it for years.”

And yet you still do not fully comprehend it.

“This was not meant to apply to the states, some of which had official religions.”

Now that is funny! Good job, excellent sarcasm. Keep it up!


Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Article comment by: Origional Kingman r Resident

"“Religion's already in the statehouse, 45 words called the First Amendment…”

Still don’t have a clear understanding of the Firt Amendment I see. "

Still don't have a clear understanding of the constitution, I see.

The Constitution sets the limits on the Federal government. The first amendment states in part the the federal government cannot establish an official religion. This was not meant to apply to the states, some of which had official religions.


Posted: Monday, January 20, 2014
Article comment by: Linda Athens

There was no agreed upon contract. The lesbian couple were simply calling the various photographers (100 in the area), looking for someone to do pictures of their ceremony.

When Huguenin explained she didn't want to photograph a same sex marriage due to her religious beliefs, rather than do the sensible thing and try one of the 99 others, leaving Huguenin's rights intact, instead the lesbian woman attacked.

Huguenin IS protected by the First Amendment however, thanks to courts stacked with God hating liberals (and obama has stacked everyone he can legally and illegally), Huguenin lost.

That you don't understand the First Amendment, how it came into being and by whom, what their ORIGINAL INTENT was, is your problem. I know what it's ORIGINAL INTENT was, still is. Have studied it for years.


Posted: Monday, January 20, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

”How come Huguenin (photographer) has to be tolerant of Willock's (lesiban) beliefs but Willock does not have to be tolerant of Huguenin's beliefs?”

Because the bigotry expressed by Huguein actually impacts the life of Willock by her refusal to live up to an agreed upon contract. Whereas the life of Huguenin is not impacted by the lifestyle of Willock.

“Religion's already in the statehouse, 45 words called the First Amendment…”

Still don’t have a clear understanding of the Firt Amendment I see.

“Being tolerant of other's beliefs shouldn't mean you surrender your own natural rights.”

Now that is really funny, coming form someone who – regularly - advocates intrusion on the lives of others.


Posted: Monday, January 20, 2014
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Marla says this is just another "I can do what I want cause my God says so". Whoa Marla!

How come Huguenin (photographer) has to be tolerant of Willock's (lesiban) beliefs but Willock does not have to be tolerant of Huguenin's beliefs?

Religion's already in the statehouse, 45 words called the First Amendment.."or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech..."

Willock's complaint, it violated NM Human Rights Act. Huguenin took it higher and lost but argued photography is a form of expression - they could neither compel nor restrict expression or speech per Wooley v Maynard.

Maynard's, JW's, forbidden to adhere to oaths were against "Live Free or Die" on their license plates. Covering it up three times, he was imprisoned. He won a state lawsuit for forcing him to express ideas he disagreed with.

Huguenin should have won for the same reason.

She wasn't opposed to women being gay, would have photographed portrats, was only opposed to photographing the ceremony on religious grounds.

With 100 photographers in the area, Willock could have found another one. Like Roe, bad case, bad law.

Being tolerant of other's beliefs shouldn't mean you surrender your own natural rights.


Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: mr. parker

@concerned citizen:
My examples are used to show that there are times that someone's personal beliefs influence their business decisions.
All 3 are true and in fact some muslim drivers will not carry passengers who are under the influence of alcohol(ABC News).

If you are partially blind, you have enough vision to approach a cab, plus a seeing eye dog would indicate you have a disability. I realize we have the ADA but that doesn't help if you're stuck at an airport because a Somali driver is afraid of the dog's saliva.

And as I mentioned, you have the right to take your business elsewhere. Private property rights allow restaurant owners to not allow firearms. I think then they should post a sign that says,"Attention! Armed Robbers, the patrons of this establishment have been disarmed for your convenience!

@The Faux Hound:Sometimes when legislatures do less, they do more for the people.

As far as gerrymandering, take a look at states where the feds are still fighting the Civil War. Some of those districts look like Rorschach Tests(MD-3)(TX-18) are examples. AZ , well as the left always says, elections have consequences.

As I said, vote with your pocketbook, don't think you have to sue and force others to conform to your beliefs. The marketplace will hash it out.


Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: concerend citizen

Ref: Mr. Parker
Actually, you can refuse to rent a room to someone over the age of 18, if they have friends under 18 joining them.

If you own a restaurant or a bar, you can request anyone carrying a firearm to leave it's the law in AZ!

And, as far as the Muslim cabdrivers go, if you're partially blind, how do you know for sure they are refusing to pick you up?


Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: Frederick Williams

@ Linda Athens, Linda Linda how wrong you are. A non- existant problem fixed by a bill that wont do anything.
1) The children and people who had no insurance but are now covered.
2) being Gay is a choice. Not so, as has been proven. Even some Conservatives are Gay as well as in every other political choice.


Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: mr. parker

"So, we've got a non-existent problem that will be fixed by a bill that won't do anything."

So, then why write about it?

So, if I own a hotel, can I refuse service to a younger person>18, who has 3 carloads of kids waiting outside? Experience has taught me they're going to have a party. I know there's going to be damage, complaints, refunds and the police are going to be called. Is that discrimination?

So I own a restaurant. I don't want people to carry firearms into my establishment. Someone comes in and they're asked to leave because they have a handgun on their belt. It's a constitutional, civil and human right to self-defense. Is that discrimination?

So I'm partially blind and have a seeing eye dog. At the airport, muslim taxi drivers refuse to pick me up because dogs are "haraam". Is that discrimination?

The point I'm trying to make is that we still have private property rights and personal beliefs that extend from our homes to our businesses. I won't stay at your hotel, I won't eat at your restaurant, I'll get another cab.

Why would these people not just find and support businesses that are friendly to them? It's not hard to do, just look online, gay,black,hispanic "yellow" pages.




Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

Thanks Alan for pointing out what a lot of us already know about the Republicans in the Legislature. They would rather waste the taxpayers money on foolish crap than do something for the people of Arizona. But nothing will change until we get serious about gerrymandering. 70 percent of these guys are able to run unopposed because of the way voting districts are put together to favor them. Both parties do it and it is counter productive to government that really represents the public.

Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

There is far too much exclusionary legislation going on in Arizona to be healthy. Capitalism and democracy flourish best in an inclusive environment as many states and nations are finding out.

Rule of Thumb: If you can't agree with someone's sexual preference, color, religion, politics or looks, then discount those aspects and include everyone for their economic value. It's the capitalist thing to do.



Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: free to grovel .....

I think that most people most of the time would like to think that the work they do makes the world a better place in some way. Taking wedding photographs of two women (or two men) getting married is not some peoples' idea of contributing to a better world. Ditto for owning a motel where two gays can do their thing (any more than some other activities done in motel rooms). Land of the free and home of the brave, but not for those who wish to exercise their freedom to refrain from employing their talents or investments on behalf of lifestyles they abhor.

Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: Linda Athens

You say a non-existant problem fixed by a bill that won't do anything reminds me of a similarity that recently happened.

It's obamacare. The fact they refuse to give the actual numbers of those signed up, who has paid and are hiding the truth has produced a bill to force them to do so, something they automatically should be revealing weekly.

By the same token, perhaps Sen Yarbroughs bill is also needed. Sadly in today's America, you often have to push for that which is only right. Along the way, people just trying to make a living as in this case, are hurt.

There is no doubt the couple could have gone elsewhere for the pictures but why do that when they can instead wreak havoc on someone in disagreement with their lifestyle.

Being gay is a choice. Being black or Korean is not with absolutely NO similarity. You are not born gay, you choose that lifestyle and many choose to stop that lifestyle and often marry and have children.

Being gay is an abomination to God per His own words in Romans and noone should be forced to take wedding photos of this great perversion in our society period any more than they should be forced to take pictures of say, people having sex w/animals, also Biblically prohibited.


Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: Marla Kiriakidis

His bill does more than you think. Basically you could commit any crime you wanted to and claim your religious beliefs gave you no other option. My views on life were given to me by my very conservative grandparents. I was taught that religion, like sex, was a private matter and one did not try and force others to live by your beliefs. This bill is just another "I can do what I want cause my God says so" bill. Keep religion where it belongs. In the church, not the statehouse.

Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: Origional Kingman Resident

"I doubt "Sports Illustrated" could be sued for only using fit female models in their swimsuit issue, and if, say, the Aryan Nation invited me to edit their newspaper, they couldn't sue me when I refused"

In the case of your example of Sports Illustrated, I agree with your premis, but in the current PC climate of today, I could see plus sized models suing SI for discrimination under ADA. That's not to say they'd win.

Your example of being invited to edit an Arian Nation paper, (which would put the news paper in the position of employer, not a customer), does not fit the topic of debate in your editorial. (Actually neither is the SI example because the plus sized models would be employed by SI, they wouldn't be customers of SI).
Being invited to accept employment with a business is not what the issue is about.

If you were in the business of selling editorials to newspapers and the Arian Nation Times wanted to contract with you to write an editorial in favor of the KKK which you refused to do, they shouldn't win a law suit forcing you to do so because you would be asked to use your art as a writer to express views with which you disagree.





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