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PHOENIX -- The Arizona House is set to debate a bill backed by Republicans that expands the rights of people to assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays and others.

Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the bill, saying it would allow discriminatory actions by businesses.

The full Senate passed the bill after nearly two hours of debate Wednesday. The House is set to debate the bill Thursday afternoon.

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

Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough said it was a First Amendment issue. Democrats said it was an outright attack on the rights of gays and lesbians.

Associated Press,

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