Orthodox Groups Silent on Arizona Anti-Gay Law

Mainstream Cheers Veto of Bill Allowing 'Faith' Discrimination

getty images

By Ron Kampeas

Published February 27, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

(JTA) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday vetoed a bill that would have permitted businesses to refuse service to gays if doing so would violate their religious convictions.

The Anti-Defamation League commended her for the veto, and the Jewish Community Relations Council in southern Arizona advocated against the bill.

Absent from the debate over the law, however, were the voices of leading national Orthodox Jewish groups, which is interesting because they have opposed same-sex marriage and warned that religious freedom faces threats stemming from gay marriage’s advance. More broadly, Orthodox groups have advocated against legislation that would impinge on beliefs they have nothing to do with (the smoking of peyote) and even those that they theologically oppose (denial of contraception coverage).

So what gave in Arizona? Agudah declined to comment to JTA. Contacted by JTA, Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, said that he had not closely reviewed the Arizona legislation.

But speaking broadly, he noted Orthodox advocacy in the past for the federal Workplace Religious Freedom Act, legislation initiated, incidentally, by John Kerry when he was a Massachusetts senator. That legislation seeks to protect individuals on both sides of a business equation: The client seeking a service and employees who may have a religious objection to providing it.

The act has never passed Congress, although legislation with similar provisions has been adopted in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The federal legislation does not mandate accommodation of a worker’s religious beliefs but requires a balancing test. If, say, an employer needed to staff a business on Christmas Day, he would need to show that he canvassed employees to find out whether there were any who were ready to work on the holiday. If the employer could not identify such an employee, it could require those who objected to work the day.

As an example, Diament mentioned one of the cases cited by Arizona lawmakers who backed the recent bill: A New Mexico photo studio that was sued for not shooting a gay wedding.

“What you would have had was not a situation in which the New Mexico photography company would have gotten to say ‘We won’t provide photographs for your wedding,’ but if there was an individual photographer, he might be able to bow out and a different photographer with the same company would have taken the pictures,” Diament said.

He noted that such accommodations were written into Oregon’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide. “If you are a pharmacist and you object to physician assisted suicide, the pharmacist does not have to dispense those drugs, they pass it off to another pharmacist,” he said.

There were no objections to that proviso, he said, because it was more “politically correct” to oppose euthanasia than same-sex marriage.

“The balancing should be that the people who are entitled to lawful services, whether they are a same-sex couple or a woman seeking contraceptives from a pharmacy, they should receive the services they are legally entitled to, but the person on the other side of the counter who has a conscientious objection should have their concerns accommodated as well,” he said.

“If people are more interested in a practical solution that is respectful of conscience concerns on both sides, a more commendable approach is to have individuals on both sides be accommodated as much as possible.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.