'Religious Freedom' Bill Riles Gay Rights Supporters

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PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona House lawmakers have given final approval to legislation that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays and others.

Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the measure, calling it "state-sanctioned discrimination."

Republican supporters stressed that the bill is about protecting religious freedom and not discrimination.

The House approved the bill on a 33-27 vote early Thursday evening, with two Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition. The state Senate passed the bill a day earlier on a straight 17-13 party-line vote.

House Bill 2153 allows people to claim their religious beliefs as a defense against claims of discrimination.

Similar bills have come up in a handful of other states, but only Arizona's proposal has passed.

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