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Pressure mounts over Arizona bill opposed by gays
Pierce said he and the others went along to present a solid Republican front, despite misgivings.
"We were uncomfortable with it to start with and went along with it thinking it was good for the caucus," Pierce said. "We really didn't want to vote for it, but we made a mistake and now we're trying to do what's right and correct it."
But their letter also said while the intent of their vote "was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance."
The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.
Opponents call it a license to discriminate against gays.
Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona's plan is the only one that has passed. The efforts are stalled in Idaho, Ohio and Kansas.
Republicans stressed that the bill is not about discrimination but protecting religious freedom. They frequently cite the case of a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to take wedding pictures of a gay couple. They said Arizona needs a law to protect people in the state from heavy-handed actions by courts.
Another frequently cited example is a suit brought against an Oregon baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
The businesses were sued, but those efforts came under state laws that extended protected-class status to gays. Arizona has no such law protecting people based on sexual orientation.
Follow Bob Christie at http://twitter.com/APChristie.