The Arizona House has begun debating a Republican bill that would expand people's rights to assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays and others.

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

The majority Republican House took up debate Thursday afternoon, a day after the full Senate passed the bill after nearly two hours of debate.

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

Bill sponsor Sen. Steve Yarbrough says it's a First Amendment issue.

Democrats say it is an outright attack on the rights of gays and lesbians.