Feb 21, 2014 9:06 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Southern Arizona reacts to controversial religious freedom bill

TUCSON - A controversial bill passed by the state legislature this week has stirred controversy locally and across the state.

Some fear Senate Bill 1062 will give Arizona another black eye with threats of economic backlash similar to what the state experienced after passing it's immigration enforcement law.

Lawmakers gave their final approval Thursday night to the bill which would protect businesses, and individuals, from discrimination lawsuits if they refuse service to someone based on religious beliefs.

Opponents of the bill say the bill targets the gay and lesbian community, as well as others.

"This bill is really targeting the LGBT community," said Rep. Demion Clinco (D- District 2) who is the only openly gay member of the Arizona House of Representatives.

"They feel that they can begin to mistreat this minority group, we as an entire society suffer," Clinco told News 4 Tucson.

Though supporters of the bill insist it's focus is about protecting religion, not discrimination.

"I don't see this as an attack in so far as those who believe you're protecting your right to practice your religion and not engage in a contract," said Rep. Adam Kwasman (R - District 11).

That's something that doesn't sit well with patrons at Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria.

"I have friends that their reactions are... This is why I'm moving out of the state of Arizona," said Stephanie Smith.

"How sad that in today's time that we just can't accept people for who they are," said Dottie Poczulp.

Shop owner Rocco DiGrazzia even posted a sign expressing his discontent with the newly passed bill.

"Infringing on some person's civil liberties is not going to help the cause of anyone .. And more freedom for everybody is the way to go," DiGrazzia said.

Still, Clinco worries about fallout similar to Arizona's controversial immigration law known as S.B. 1070.

"There's just a variety of things that I think it can be devastating to... more broadly the message that we're sending out about the type of state Arizona is," Clinco said.

Governor Brewer, who was in Washington today and hasn't seen the bill yet, is fully aware of the controversy. She pledged to make a decision within a week.

"We know that it's failed in states across the country ....It's very controversial so I've got to get my hands around it," Brewer said.

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.


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