The Arizona state legislature has just passed a bill called SB 1062, designed to protect religious liberty. Opponents claim that it will allow businesses to refuse to serve people on the grounds of race, gender, orientation, etc. if it's done by the owner on religious grounds. But the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in public accommodations (i.e. places of business accessible to the public, like restaurants and stores). And it seems that Arizona state law contains a similar prohibition on public accommodations discrimination.

So my question is, does SB 1062 grant a religious exemption to at least Arizona's state laws governing discrimination in public accommodations? And how it would square with the federal Civil Rights law? Does it only shield Arizona businesses from state-level prosecution of religiously motivated discrimination, but still leave them liable to federal discrimination prosecutions?

Edit: this is somewhat of a moot point now, because Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has just vetoed the bill. She cited this as her reason: "Religious liberty is a core American and Arizonan value, but so too is non-discrimination."

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    Short answer, no. Imagine this scenario - I'm a Jewish photographer. KKK or Neo-Nazis want me to come to their parade or whatever and record the entire thing. A bill like SB 1062 will allow me to say "no" to them. Without that, I'm forced to. And she vetoed it because she was pressured.
    – Shahar
    Feb 27, 2014 at 23:50
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    @KeshavSrinivasan - that's laywering. If I own a restaurant, I own a restaurant. Calling it "public" doesn't change the concept that I'm being forced to use MY OWN business resources to serve KKK
    – user4012
    Feb 28, 2014 at 17:48
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    @shahar you are absolutely not forced to serve the KKK. They are not a protected class. So this proposed law had nothing to do with your imagined scenario.
    – user1530
    Mar 1, 2014 at 15:49
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    @user4012 - Wrong. If you are running a business you don't get to pick and choose. Even privately owned businesses, if generally used by/available to the public, are "public accommodations." Jan 29, 2019 at 21:39
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    @user4012 - The status of a business as a public accommodation is not a new phenomenon. Nor is the idea that running a business is a privilege that society allows, not an inherent right. You can see that by the regulations and licensing requirements that have always existed for businesses. Jan 29, 2019 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


Yes. According to Wikipedia:

"The bill would amend an existing law to give any individual or legal entity an exemption from any state law that substantially burdens their exercise of religion, including Arizona law requiring public accommodation regardless of a customer's race, color, national origin, sex, religion, and disability. Arizona has no public accommodation discrimination law protecting sexual orientation. The law being amended already gives a religious exemption to religious assemblies or institutions."

The proposed law does not seem to be a violation of the Civil Rights Act, due to an act of Congress passed in 1993 to "prevent laws that substantially burden a person's free exercise of their religion" called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The intention of the original law includes protections provided in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if it substantially burdens a business, person, or trust to comply. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was ruled unconstitutional for use by state or city governments, so the State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts were passed. Currently 17 states have such laws and several, including Arizona, have proposed them.

  • Do you have any idea whether the bill overrides Arizona's own public accomodations discrimination law? Feb 26, 2014 at 21:17
  • This is what Wikipedia says and numerous news accounts, so it seems to be the idea. Its an anti-LBGT bill
    – Razie Mah
    Feb 26, 2014 at 21:18
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    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not part of the constitution... So the law, if enacted, may be in violation of the CRA, but unless that act is adopted as an amendment to the constitution then it would not be unconstitutional based on that law. Wikipedia is a good source for general reference but in cases like this something more authoritive is preferred. Feb 26, 2014 at 22:39
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    @Chad If a state passes a law that contravenes federal law, then that violates the Supremacy Clause in Article Six of the Constitution. Feb 26, 2014 at 23:28
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    @KeshavSrinivasan I assume a lot by saying a "few." I think this bill is way more about religious peoples right to discriminate against each other and this might easily get out of hand. I like to be able to go to a hotel and not worry someone will ask me to show my marriage certificate or thrown out of the deli because my skirt is too short. So many possibilities...
    – Razie Mah
    Feb 27, 2014 at 21:13

But the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in public accommodations (i.e. places of business accessible to the public, like restaurants and stores).

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”. Note the lack of mention of “sexual orientation”. So there is no conflict with this particular federal law.

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    But I don't think SB 1062 was only about discrimination based on orientation. I think it was about granting an religious exemption to the prohibition against public accomodations discrimination in general. Feb 27, 2014 at 15:30
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    Yes. It's granting a blanket exemption. The argument is that its meant to target LBGT, but that's not the only people it can be used against.
    – Razie Mah
    Feb 27, 2014 at 19:53

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