By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A bill that makes Arizona the first in the nation to require presidential candidates prove U.S. citizenship has cleared the state Legislature.
The bill, which would put into law what has been a rallying point for those doubting that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S., does allow candidates to file other documents to prove their citizenship.
State House members late Thursday sent to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer the so-called "birther bill," a measure that requires a candidate for the nation's highest office present a "long-form birth certificate" to qualify.
"This bill is about the integrity of our elections and the integrity of people who run, and making sure that they properly qualify," said Rep. Carl Seel, a sponsor of the measure told Republican legislators in caucus Thursday. He said it was not strictly directed at Obama.
Seel said the proposal does nothing more than seek to enforce the provisions set out in the U.S. Constitution, including that the president must be a "natural born citizen."
The bill, approved by a 40-16 vote, still must be acted upon by Brewer, a Republican. She has not said whether she will sign or veto it.
Rep. Ruben Gallego said the bill was "embarrassing" and goes against the forward-looking reputation Arizona has worked hard to cultivate.
"How can I consider myself a good state legislator and (in) good conscience vote for this?" Gallego asked legislators during the final vote.
Arizona's birther bill has attracted nationwide notice in recent weeks, with critics saying the bill represents another black mark on the desert state's tarnished image.
The state has been in the spotlight since it passed legislation last year designed to limit illegal immigration. Key parts of the law have been blocked by the courts.
Seel discussed the measure with real estate mogul and television reality show host Donald Trump in a face-to-face meeting last week in New York. Trump, a presidential candidate, has questioned that Obama was born in Hawaii.
Under Arizona's legislation, a candidate also could pass state muster by filing a baptismal or circumcision certificate, hospital birth record, post-partum medical record or early census record.
A candidate also would be able to qualify for the ballot by submitting a notarized affidavit from two or more persons who witnessed the birth.
Arizona Democrats have labeled the bill unconstitutional and predict it will be challenged in court if signed into law by the governor.
(Editing by Greg McCune)