You marveled in perverse fascination when they fought against Martin Luther King Jr. Day. You recoiled in horror when they tried to ban brown people. Now, the nation's most famous authors of hateful, archaic, completely unnecessary controversy are back with a brand new bill that's even more pointless and stupid than ever! More thrills, more chills, more whining justification for bigotry! Don't miss a single minute of mystifying mental madness!
“Arizona Legislature 3: We Hate White People Too, As Long As They're Gay.”
In the past week, both the House and the Senate of the state of Arizona passed SB 1062, a bill that effectively allows businesses to refuse service to gay people. According to the state legislature's website, SB 1062 “expands the definition of ‘exercise of religion’ to specifically include both the practice and observance of religion” and “expands the definition of ‘person’ to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” This means, among other things, that business owners can legally refuse to serve people on religious grounds; such a refusal would not be subject to a discrimination lawsuit if the business owner's religious beliefs were “sincerely held” and their exercise of religion was “substantially burdened,” terminology subjective enough to be twisted in easily foreseeable ways.
Everyone seems so shocked, but is it really that surprising? The Arizona legislature, in its continual efforts to live up to the worst parts of the red state stereotype, has once again passed a faith-based, discriminatory law that will probably have the rest of the country shouting “Boycott Arizona!” again. It's sad, but the very fact that we're so accustomed to everyone else hating us from time to time should be a sign that something has been rotten in Arizona for a while now. Expect nothing of the elected representatives of the Grand Canyon State, and you will never be disappointed.
Maybe it's just that the rot has been there for so long that the stink is starting to get unbearable. Oh, SB 1062 is being dressed up in all sorts of backwards religious terminology; supporters of the legislation are framing it as a Constitutional issue, claiming to be protectors of freedom of religion. Indeed, the narrative being constructed by those who helped write and pass this bill, most notably the right-wing and thoroughly contemptible Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), is that religious people are victims who need protection from the relentless attack on their beliefs represented by homosexuals.
“Participation in religious communities should be celebrated, not penalized,” proclaims the CAP website in defense of SB 1062.
“Persecuting individuals or groups for their religious beliefs creates second-class citizens who are seen as less valuable because of their faith.”
Well, we certainly don't want to start treating anyone like second-class citizens here in Arizona, now do we? These statements would be worthy of praise for their acute sense of irony, if they weren't completely serious. There are people creating policy in Arizona who sincerely believe that a business owner's religious freedoms are under attack when a gay couple walks through the door. Instead of individuals being persecuted for their sexual preference and devalued because of their lifestyle, these people see god-fearing, church-going Arizonans being robbed of their right to get disproportionately offended because of a few words in a really old book. A bill just like this one couldn't make it through the state senate of Kansas, of all places; in Arizona, it's one Jan “Only Eats The Flesh Of Virgins” Brewer signature away from becoming the law of the land.
In the end, though, it's really just one more installment in Arizona's long-running series of ire-inducing political idiocy. Maybe Brewer will prove willing to learn from past mistakes, particularly because many businesses, far from reveling in their newfound ability to stick it to the sinners, seem to be more concerned about yet another wave of negative attention coming their way, particularly in light of next year's Superbowl in Glendale. Or maybe not. I wonder what the legislature would say if they knew how many Northern Arizona University (NAU) students in this year's graduating class are looking forward, more than anything else, to finally escaping Arizona once and for all.