9532737Arizona’s legislature approved a bill Thursday that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays and others. Democrats called the proposal “state-sanctioned discrimination” and an embarrassment. The 33-27 vote by the House sends the bill to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. The legislation prompted a heated debate on the floor of the Republican-dominated House, touching on issues such as religious freedom, constitutional protections and civil rights. It comes as an increasing number of conservative U.S. states grapple with ways to counter the increasing legality of gay marriage. Seventeen states, plus the Washington capital district, allow gay marriage, most of them in the Northeast. The movement toward legalizing gay marriage especially gained momentum after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year to strike down part of a federal law that prevented the government from recognizing same-sex marriages. On Thursday, Oregon’s attorney general announced she will not defend that state’s ban on gay marriage, joining the top lawyers in at least five other U.S. states who have made similar decisions. More