I don’t know what Arizona Republican legislators are running from now: they have accomplished their mission. They’ve made it abundantly clear that they don’t like or respect the rights of gays, bi-sexuals and transsexuals, and want to leave no question in the minds of anti-gay bigots (or good and gentle religious people across the state who want to discriminate against gays because they thing doing so is “moral”) that the nationwide cultural shift to approval of gay marriage, a.k.a, equal rights under law, hasn’t changed this: Arizona Republicans back your dislike of these perverts’ sinful, corrupting lifestyle, whatever the law is.
The disingenuous and offensive argument being made by Republican supporters of the modifications of an 1999 Arizona law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is, in essence, that Arizona businesses can already discriminate against gays, and so can those of lots of other states. This isn’t an anti-gay law! It’s a religious freedom law! Yes, and the Civil War was about States rights. The new bill’s clear motivation—Timing! Timing!— is to strengthen the hand of businesses, organizations, corporation and non-profits that object, allegedly or actually on genuine religious grounds, to serving, employing, or dealing with gays. More than that, however, the goal is to line up the legal, moral and ethical authority of the state behind those who want to treat gays in this fashion, whatever the reason, rather than behind the rights of the LBGT community to be treated like all other citizens.
The adoption of such a of such a bill into law would harm every single member of the LBGT community whether they were ever refused service or not. By asserting that it is fair and reasonable to treat them differently and with less respect than other Americans, Arizona will have declared that in its view, they are not as worthy of rights and protection as other Americans. They are not welcome.
That was the message, in great measure, of the state’s controversial anti-illegal immigration legislation of a few years ago: let illegals know they are not welcome. I endorsed and still endorse that message, for illegal immigrants should not be welcome, and it is incomprehensible that anyone should be welcome to break important and standing laws. The message of the new version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, however, is un-American….and it has already been sent.
Governor Jan Brewer is playing coy about whether she will sign the bill or not, and that is a message too. It tells everyone, but especially the state’s gays, that she approves of the vile message being sent, but perhaps not all the consequences of sending it. She has been waiting to see where the winds are blowing, especially those carrying money to her state. Now it looks as if Arizona will be the target of serious economic consequences and even boycotts if the bill becomes law, much as it did when it initially rejected Martin Luther King Day, and even in Arizona, most bigots prefer money to what they call “principle.” If Brewer found disparate treatment of citizens according to their sexual preferences to be wrong, she would have sent a very different message, by announcing immediately that the bill was an embarrassment to Arizona, that it did not correctly represent the attitudes of the citizens of the state, and that it would be Dead On Arrival when it reached her desk. She does not possess the courage or the dedication to justice, fairness and equality to send that message., even if she agrees with it.
Whether the bill is passed or not, its message has already insulted and marginalized the LBGT community in Arizona and out of it, and steeled the resolve of religious conservatives who refuse to recognize when their religious beliefs have begun doing more harm than good, as well as the outright bigots who rationalize their hate—it’s mostly based on ignorance, habit, and “Ick!“—with religious beliefs that they only break out when they’re useful.
The bill also sends a useful message to everyone else about the stubborn, deceitful, irrational politicians who sent it, and their party. They are kicking and screaming and holding their breath until they turn blue because they don’t like where the culture is going, and they continue to back an ugly, smelly, limping nag in a lopsided race to determine what’s right and wrong in a democracy based on equal rights. They are going to lose. Indeed they have already lost; the only question is how much these bitter and inflexible politicians are willing to lose on the inevitable results.