Fact-Checkers Inexplicably Conclude Arizona’s Anti-Gay Bill Isn’t Anti-Gay

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February 26, 2014 4:38 p.m.

A fact-checking organization run by Arizona media outlets concluded on Tuesday that the anti-gay legislation that has created a national firestorm in the state is not, in fact, discriminatory.

The organization examined an Arizona lawmaker’s statement about the bill, known as SB 1062.

“This (bill) is not a discrimination bill,” state Rep. Adam Kwasman (R) said. “It makes no mention of sexual orientation.”

The fact-checking group — a collaboration between the Arizona Republic, KPNX and Arizona State University’s journalism school — rated that statement “true.” It reached that conclusion because the bill doesn’t explicitly mention sexual orientation and Arizona law doesn’t protect gay people through its anti-discrimination statute.

But right before its conclusion, the analysis noted that the bill’s sponsors had outright said that the legislation was motivated in part by the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to provide services to a same-sex couple.

The Center for Arizona Policy, which wrote the bill, and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, have said the bill is in response to a New Mexico lawsuit in which a wedding photographer was sued after she declined to take pictures of a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony. The bill would provide a legal defense for an Arizona photographer in such a situation, according to bill sponsors.

Gay rights advocates and legal experts have told TPM that bills like Arizona’s would effectively legitimize anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.

Update: Thursday, 9:30 a.m. ET

The fact-check group has updated its post, now saying that the Kwasman statement is “somewhat true, somewhat false.” The new bottom line reads:

Kwasman is accurate that SB 1062 does not mention “sexual orientation.”

But Kwasman’s assertion that the bill “is not a discrimination bill” is a murkier issue. Constitutional law experts have pointed out ways in which the bill could be construed as having the effect of encouraging discriminatory behavior.

It is true, however, that the bill would have no effect, even if passed, under current state law because same-sex couples are not protected under state discrimination laws.

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