Thursday, February 27, 2014

1062 is 86'd

I can't say I'm shocked by this given the enormous pressure, scrutiny and flat out misrepresentation of Arizona Senate Bill 1062.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced Wednesday that she has vetoed SB 1062, the controversial bill that has been criticized as discriminatory towards gays and lesbians, saying the measure, “has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.”

“Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” Brewer told reporters during a press conference Wednesday evening. “The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”

After the press conference, Brewer tweeted a photo of herself vetoing the bill.

The Republican governor has faced intense scrutiny since the controversial measure that would allow business owners to deny services for religious reasons to gay and lesbian customers landed on her desk Monday.

Brewer said that both religious liberty and nondiscrimination are core values of her state and warned the bill “could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.”

I understood the spirit behind this legislation, which was to prevent individuals from being in a position to have to violate their consciences or possibly face litigation. The example often cited is a baker in Colorado who refused his services to a gay couple due to the fact his religion (Christianity) does not sanction same-sex weddings. The baker in question, Jack Phillips, was indeed sued by the homosexual couple whose request for a wedding cake was denied. A judge ruled against Phillips, citing his refusal of services based on religious grounds to be discriminatory.

The fact SB 1062 was being touted as "anti-gay" or a "sending us back to the days of Jim Crow" is at best ignorant and at worst utterly deceitful. Let's suppose that 1062 was signed into law. Could you imagine what would happen if a certain private business began refusing services to gays outside the framework of that law? At best, their business reputation would be dragged through the mud, resulting in throngs of people no longer patronizing said business. In essence, the business owner's livelihood would be in jeopardy if they attempted to push the boundaries of that law, and rightly so. But that is the key distinction between Jim Crow laws and SB 1062. In the 1950s and '60s, while Jim Crow was still in effect, people started to become outraged over the fact that a segment of the population (i.e blacks) were refused service in certain establishments or were banished to a separate section altogether. But even if a restaurant owner or motel proprietor wanted to allow black people to utilize their services, Jim Crow laws were enforced by government, thus precluding business owners from serving whomever they chose. Ben Howe of Red State summed it up brilliantly when he said people "need to learn the difference between govt mandated segregation and freedom to self-segregate. One should be illegal, the other disliked." Spot on!

In the end, I agreed with Gov. Brewer's decision to veto the legislation. Again, while I thought the substance of the bill was being largely misrepresented by certain people, there didn't seem to be an urgent need to enact such a "religious freedom" law. Brewer herself stated she had “not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.” Let's hope that remains the case and that the incident with the Colorado bakery was indeed isolated. But given the lack of tolerance over moral objections to homosexuality, I have a feeling this issue will be revisited.

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