By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A Republican bill that would make Arizona the first U.S. state to require presidential candidates to prove their American citizenship in order to get on the ballot in the state has cleared the state legislature.
The state House of Representatives passed the measure 40-16 late on Thursday and sent it to Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who has not said whether she will sign it into law or veto it. The measure previously was passed by the state Senate.
The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the measure at a time when some foes of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, falsely accuse him of not being a native-born U.S. citizen. Real estate mogul and television reality show host Donald Trump is among those questioning Obama's citizenship.
The citizenship bill marks yet another conflict between Republicans in the western desert state and Obama, whose administration went to court to block provisions of an Arizona law signed by Brewer cracking down on illegal immigrants.
"This bill is about the integrity of our elections and the integrity of people who run, and making sure that they properly qualify," state Representative Carl Seel, a sponsor of the measure, told Republican legislators in caucus Thursday. He said it was not strictly directed at Obama.
Arizona Democrats call the bill unconstitutional and predict it will be challenged in court if it becomes state law.
Seel said the legislation does nothing more than seek to enforce provisions in the U.S. Constitution, including one that the president be a "natural born citizen."
The measure would compel candidates running for president of the United States to provide Arizona with documents demonstrating that they are natural-born citizens.
A detailed birth certificate would satisfy the requirement.
The measure also would permit candidates to provide two or more other documents such as a baptismal or circumcision certificate, hospital birth record, postpartum medical record, early census record or a notarized affidavit from two or more people who witnessed the birth.
State Representative Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, called the bill "embarrassing" and added, "How can I consider myself a good state legislator and (in) good conscience vote for this?"
(Editing by Greg McCune and Deborah Charles)