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Arizona Senate OKs bill boosting service refusal

PHOENIX (AP) The Arizona Senate has passed a bill backed by Republicans that expands the rights of people to assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays and others, a measure Democrats say will open the doors for discrimination and hurt the state economy.

Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the bill that was pushed by social conservatives, saying it would allow discriminatory actions by businesses.

But state Sen. Steve Yarbrough said his sponsorship of the bill was prompted by a New Mexico case in which the state Supreme Court allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to take pictures of their wedding. He says he's protecting religious rights.

Democrats said during debate that they believed Yarbrough's legislation was designed to allow discrimination. But Yarbrough said, "This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."