Last night Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed AZ SB 1062.
Supporters of SB 1062 claimed it defended religious freedom by allowing business people to “live their faith” by refusing service to people of whom they disapproved based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. Opponents claimed it codified religion into law and that it’s only purpose was to provide a shield against civil suits to those who wished to “live their hate” by discriminating against LGBT people.
Nationwide, the consensus was that the law was blatantly discriminatory. There was a real fear that people would refuse to visit Arizona and that businesses would refuse to do business in Arizona. Within the state, opposition included an unlikely coalition of Civil Rights groups, LGBT activists, leaders of the business community, economic development groups, the tourism industry and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Even Tea Party sycophants like U.S. Senator Jeff Flake and several State Senators who voted for the bill urged the Governor to veto. Most surprising of all, some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were calling for a veto. Apparently the Mormons worried the law was not focused narrowly enough on the LGBT community and feared some Arizona fundamentalists would “live their faith” by discriminating against Mormons. The Mormons are protected by the (federal) Civil Rights Act but their concerns were not totally unfounded. Arizona has a long and, in some circles, proud history of ignoring federal law governing voting rights so the idea we’d ignore the laws governing civil right isn’t really that much of a leap of imagination.
I thank Governor Jan for doing the right thing, albeit for the wrong reasons. In the world of real politik we must take our victories where we find them. Those of us who live, work, and shop in one of the three Arizona cities whose municipal civil rights ordinances include a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation can rest a little easier. In the rest of the State, of course, it is business as usual. People are free to ‘live their hate’ that same way they always have. Hang a sign in their store window that says; “No Queers”. There is nothing that prohibits that.
What ultimately offended some Arizona conservatives about SB 1062, and offending Arizona conservatives is the only way a law gets vetoed in AZ, is the limitations it placed on their freedom of thought; what Queen Elizabeth I referred to as ‘making windows into men’s souls”. The law said conservatives were free to discriminate based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. With the exception of the three cities with municipal ordinances, it has never been necessary for a bigot in Arizona to have “sincerely held religious beliefs” before. The hate alone has always been enough.