In New Mexico, a photographer declined to take pictures of a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. In Washington State, a florist would not provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. And in Colorado, a baker refused to make a cake for a party celebrating the wedding of two men.
The business owners cited religious beliefs in declining to provide services celebrating same-sex relationships. And in each case, they were sued.
Now, as states around the nation weigh how to balance the rights of same-sex couples with those of conservative religious business owners, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona must decide whether to sign legislation that would allow business owners to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for denying service to same-sex couples.
The legislation, approved by lawmakers on Thursday, immediately attracted national attention, with conservative religious groups welcoming it as a necessary form of protection for objectors to same-sex marriage, and gay rights groups denouncing it as a license for discrimination. The measure comes at a time when the courts are grappling with how to define the religious rights of private businesses: The Supreme Court is to hear two cases next month in which businesses are seeking exemptions from providing insurance coverage for contraception to their employees, citing the religious beliefs of the companies’ owners.