Opinion / To the Left

Arizona: Narrowly Avoiding Disaster

So, the President of Uganda just passed an anti-gay law that allows the life-imprisonment of its citizens if they perform homosexual acts. Totally batshit crazy right? What about a law that permits business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers as long as they clarify that it is due to their “sincere” religious beliefs? That’s gotta be straight from Russia, I’m sure of it. They’re the ones beating their gay citizens and all that jazz. But no, the aforementioned law comes straight from the state that brought us John McCain — you know it: Arizona.

For a state that is all about states’ rights and upholding the Constitution, Arizona sure is forgetting a pretty important Amendment. For those of you that haven’t taken an American government class since high school, I’m talking about the 14th Amendment, known as the Equal Protection Clause. A particularly favorite quote of mine from the Amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

Unless of course the citizen is a flamboyant man … or a woman with a Miley Cyrus haircut? Besides the ridiculously discriminatory nature of the law, how exactly do the lawmakers of Arizona intend to support a business owner’s decision that someone is homosexual or lives a homosexual lifestyle? Does this mean that I could theoretically be refused a burger in Arizona if I go in with my roommate, whom the general public tends to think I’m dating simply because we finish each other’s sentences, cook each other meals and, on occasion, cuddle? It’s called a best friend, y’all … shout-out to my gal Erin!

Arizona’s Senate Bill 1062 is intended to protect corporations, business owners and even good old mail delivery boy Tom from lawsuits of discrimination set against them. As long as the defendant refuses service to the said accuser based on his or her religious beliefs, Arizona believes that the lawsuit should be dropped, that no one should be charged and that the state should stand behind the discrimination. Because if you believe that your religion encourages you to go out of your way to be rude and discriminatory to others, you should have that damn right. After all, this is ’Merica.

The sponsor of the bill, Republican (is it really necessary that I clarify this?) Senator Steve Yarbrough defended the bill by stating that it is “about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.” Ohhh, now I get it. People who are gay are discriminating against all the heterosexuals — why didn’t I see it that way before! Because if there’s anything that gays are known for, it’s hating straight people! Or is this back to the whole, “if my kid sees a kid at school with two moms, my kid will spasmodically become homosexual” thing?

Republican supporters of the bill are adamant in clarifying that the law is, according to Fox News, “about protecting religious freedom, not about allowing discrimination.” But I think we all know how quickly the former can creep into the latter. I’m pretty sure the Ku Klux Klan was founded as a religious organization; the homepage of their national website states the first item of their platform as, “The recognition that America was founded on a Christian nation.” I’m not saying that this law necessarily encourages discrimination at the level that the KKK does, but it sure as hell excuses it.

Cathi Herrod, the president of the Center for Arizona Policy, the group that pushed the passing of the bill, defended the law by saying, “America still stands for the principle that religious beliefs matter [for] something in this country, that we have the right to freely exercise our religious beliefs.” Uhh, Cath, I think you’re mixing up the right to freely exercise your religious beliefs with the right to shove your religious beliefs down the throats of everyone else, which I’m pretty sure is blatantly prohibited by the First Amendment. Isn’t it fun when Conservatives, who love to state that America was built on Christian values, forget that our Founding Fathers did everything that they could to prevent the church from entering our government? That the reason that the United States was formed was mainly because people were fleeing the religious persecution of their motherlands?

Good old John Adams put it pretty simply at the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 when he said, “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” Or Thomas Jefferson in 1814: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” Or James Madison: “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church and the State.” Is that sufficient evidence against your argument, Ms. Herrod?

Now I’m not saying that the conservatives of Arizona need to stop discriminating against their gay neighbors. I would never! But maybe they could just discriminate in their own minds and keep their personal beliefs out of their business transactions? Exercise your religious beliefs freely as an individual; don’t try to twist the Constitution in a way that literally excuses discrimination.

Arizona’s State Congress passed this legislation last Thursday and Governor Jan Brewer had until Monday March 1st to either sign SB1062 into law, or veto it. Last night, Governor Brewer vetoed the bill. And honestly, I can’t imagine that she would have been foolish enough not to, despite its easy passing through the Senate. Though we should all feel a sigh of relief due to the Governor’s decision to make the obviously clear decision regarding the bill, we should be even more wary of the fact that it came to the Governor’s desk at all. The fact that religion is gaining the strength to creep into our laws and become an excuse for closed-mindedness and discrimination is a serious problem and it should not be taken lightly.

I would like to add the fact that Governor Brewer has made no statements regarding the unjust discrimination that would come had this law passed. She simply stated that her “agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona … despite the cheers or boos from the crowd.” Twenty years ago Arizona was set to host the Super Bowl but because they refused to acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday as a state holiday, the National Football League chose to move the game to Pasadena. Next year’s Super Bowl is scheduled to be in Phoenix. I wonder how coincidental the Governor’s decision is considering Sports Illustrated stated yesterday that the League was looking into similar actions.

I’m more than ecstatic that the bill didn’t get signed into law, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t help but think what would have happened had the media not swarmed the story, getting people riled up enough to get Governor Brewer sweating. It is so unsettling that any politicians thought they could slide this into law without anyone holding them accountable for their legal justification of discrimination. Governor Brewer is not endorsing equal treatment for all; she’s protecting her precious economy. Even when Arizona makes the right decision, it’s made for the wrong reason. Although to be fair, Senator John McCain called for a veto from the Governor, so I guess he’s off my hit-list for now…

Another fun thought: Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Oklahoma have all attempted passing very similar legislation recently. Arizona is the only state that has successfully gotten it through their Senate. All I know is that I’m in love with the sign in the window of Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson that currently says “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Arizona Legislators.” Governor Brewer closed her statement last night with the comforting statement: “We can now move on from this controversy and assure the American people that everyone is welcome to live, work and enjoy.” Except for the gay community, who will just move.

Mckinley Krongaus is about to buy up all of the U-Haul stock.

 

 

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, February 27, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.
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