Arizona Lawmakers Seek Religious Compromise in LGBT Antidiscrimination Bill

Arizona’s new law would prohibit discrimination against transgender and gay people. However, it includes an important compromise which would allow churches and other religious organisations to be exempted from the legislation.

H.B. 2802, introduced by Rep. Amish Shah (D–Phoenix) and House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R–Mesa) would extend housing and public accommodations discrimination protections to gay and transgender people. Exempt are places of worship and religious schools as well as food preparation facilities that have been inspected by religious leaders in order to meet varying dietary requirements.

Conversion therapy to minors for the purpose of “curing” their homosexuality or transsexuality is also prohibited by this bill. However, it only applies to licensed health professionals and excludes clergy members.

This proposal is very similar to the Utah Compromise, a 2015 bill that was passed in Utah. Public support for the bill was shown by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders who helped to pass it.

This bill would be similar to the Federal Fairness for All Act, which expands federal anti-discrimination law to encompass gays/transgenders. However, it also provides exemptions for religious people and churches.

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Equality Arizona is a LGBT non-profit group and released a statement supporting the bill. It said that “this historic measure was the result of years of thoughtful dialog between leading Arizona LGBTQ organisations, business leaders, communities of faith, and communities to support a bill which aims at updating Arizona’s anti-discrimination laws while still preserving religious liberty.” Arizona’s Mesa and Scottsdale have passed similar compromise ordinances against discrimination.

But, today’s state of popular culture is not one that allows for compromise. It is the Deseret News In 2020, it was noted that states have not followed Utah’s example to try to include LGBT people to discrimination laws. However, they did protect a level of religious freedom. Federally, the Fairness for All Act is dead. Democrats are backing the Equality Act which would limit exemptions for institutions and religious citizens.

A full LGBT backlash has been underway in certain red states legislatures. Florida’s Republican Governor. Ron DeSantis supports a bill to significantly restrict the freedom of educators to discuss LGBT topics in schools. This also gives lawyers and parents an opportunity to bring nuisance suits in order to cash in on this culture war.

Although H.B. Although 2802 remains a compromise bill, Shah and Bowers’ decision to team up for a compromise is worth noting. It does not provide exemptions for small businesses that may have religious objections in providing services or goods for gay weddings. And because the Supreme Court declined to actually decide whether the act of making a wedding cake counts as speech under the First Amendment—and thus whether public accommodation law compels firing up the oven—expect to see more compromises that allow some people to opt out of anti-discrimination, but not others, even when both groups seek exemptions for the exact same reason.