Another Arizona anti-gay bill that had largely flown under the radar could be coming up for a vote in the state House, the Arizona Republic reported Friday. The bill would allow judges and other public officials to decline to perform same-sex marriages based on their religious beliefs.
According to the legislature’s website, the bill was introduced on Jan. 28. The House Government Committee approved it with a “do pass” recommendation on Feb. 4, and the House Rules Committee cleared it on Feb. 18.
The Republic reported that the legislation was “awaiting debate” in front of the full House.
The proposed bill language says that: “the government may not require a minister to solemnize a marriage that is inconsistent with the minister’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Gay marriage, it should be noted, is not legal in Arizona.
The problem, according to gay rights advocates, is that the definition of “minister” is broad: “an individual who is authorized to solemnize a marriage” under Arizona law. The relevant statute includes state and local judges as well as justices of the peace and members of the clergy.
“It’s on our radar. We are watching it. We do have concerns about it,” Rebecca Winiger, president of Equality Arizona, a gay rights group, told TPM in a phone interview. “Not necessarily the part where ministers do not have to perform them in line with the tenets of their faith because that follows state law.”
“But the definition of ministers does flow down to judges, which is in direct conflict with some of the already established judicial ethics policies. It would just create confusion.”
The bill is narrower than the broad “religious freedom” bill, which advocates warned would have legitimized widespread discrimination against LGBT people, that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Wednesday.