If I had been a drug user during the 60s, I’m pretty sure I would write this off as just another unfortunate “flash back”.
Sadly, this is all too real.
Last week, the Arizona state legislature voted for a bill that would purportedly protect the rights of local business people. As the bill was adopted by both state houses, business people would be allowed to refuse services to those they don’t like.
This comes in response to several widely publicized cases, like the one in 2006 in which a wedding photographer in New Mexico refused to take photos of a gay wedding, and a another just last year in which a baker in Colorado refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The photographer and baker were taken to court for discrimination and lost.
So now, if Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signs the bill into law, business owners could deny services to anyone they choose – based on “sincerely held religious beliefs”.
Supporters of the measure insist they are defending freedom – even the First Amendment, somehow – arguing that business owners should be free to serve or not serve whomever they please.
Kellie Fiedorek, a lawyer for the “Alliance Defending Freedom” (which helped write the new law), says the law is to protect someone from being forced to “use their creative ability to create a message to support an event, to support an idea that goes against their beliefs.”
Her examples: “we would not force a Muslim to participate in a Koran-burning ceremony. We wouldn’t ask a black photographer and force them to take a picture of a KKK event.”
Bad grammar aside, she makes a good point. We should never force a Muslim to participate in a Koran-burning. In fact, there’s only one crack-pot in America stupid enough to publicly burn a Koran!
“This is America,’ argues Fiedorek, “and [in] America we should be able to live freely and not be forced to endorse ideas.”
Or as my niece used to say, “You’re not the boss of me!”
But she was seven at the time!
Opponents of the measure (and that includes me) see this law as specifically targeting the gay community, bringing back a new era of “Jim Crowe” – that sordid time in America’s past when people of color were legally marginalized and discriminated against.
This time the separate-but-equal accommodations would target gays and lesbians.
After nearly 40 years of civil rights progress, do we really want to go back there?
Without a doubt, the Arizona bill, if signed by the governor, will be struck down by the courts. Already, three of the state senators who voted for it have expressed regret. The two Senators from Arizona (McCain & Flake) have asked Governor Brewer to veto the bill, as has a large segment of the Arizona business community.
For your additional consideration, Arizona is slated to host Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. But as was done in 1993 when the state refused to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, the NFL just might relocate the game to a more welcoming setting, resulting in the loss of an estimated $100 million in tourism revenue.
Arizona's anti-immigration law passed in 2010 cost the state some $140 million in revenues.
Furthermore, the Apple Computer Company has weighed in. Apple is planning to build a plant in Mesa that will provide jobs for 700 people – the gift that keeps on giving! But if this bill is signed into law, Apple has announced they will locate the plant elsewhere.
With millions of dollars at stake, Governor Brewer promises she will do “the right thing”.
The question is, what does she think “the right thing” is?
And will she do it for the right reason?