Thursday, February 27, 2014

Veto of Arizona Gay-Discrimination Bill: A Selection of Commentary

There's a wealth of good commentary in the past several days about the phony "religious freedom" legislation sweeping the nation right now, including the law that Jan Brewer just vetoed in Arizona. Here are some of my picks:

What they [i.e., the religious right] seek is nothing short of a different definition of American citizenship granted only to highly religious people, and highly religious Christians in particular. They are demanding that our laws stake out for them a kind of Citizenship Platinum, allowing them an exemption from any law or obligation they'd prefer to disregard. They would refashion the First Amendment in their image.

To support SB 1062 you must conceive of religious liberty as a social trump card. Whatever you do, in whatever social realm, must be publicly sanctioned so long as it's an expression of some putative religious belief. Or to put it another way, any actions undertaken as exercises of religion must be treated as if they had been undertaken in private. This view writes democratic norms and competing liberties entirely out of the equation: We expect to benefit from all manner of public provisions and tax preferences, but if in return the public insists we treat everyone equally, our rights have been violated. If we can't pick which insurance regulations we want to adhere to and keep the tax benefit the government provides to employers who provide their workers with health coverage, then it's not religious freedom.

The premise of the bill is that discrimination becomes acceptable so long as it is packaged inside a religious wrapper.  . . . Yet, while LGBT Americans are the current target of this effort to repackage prejudice as "religious liberty," they are hardly the first. To the contrary, as Wake Forest law Professor Michael Kent Curtis explained in a 2012 law review article, many segregationists justified racial bigotry on the very same grounds that religious conservatives now hope to justify anti-gay animus. In the words of one professor at a prominent Mississippi Baptist institution, "our Southern segregation way is the Christian way . . . . [God] was the original segregationist."

And despite the drama and the veto... it is still perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay, lesbian, bi, or trans in Arizona and it's still perfectly legal for business owners in Arizona to refuse to serve LGBT customers. Still, victory!

Proving even Arizona has its limits, Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed the hateful bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay customers. In her veto letter, Brewer blathered on at length in praise of religious freedom as the ideal behind this great land of liberty before taking a sharp follow-the-money turn and acknowledging the bill could have "unintended and negative consequences," like moving Super Bowls elsewhere and people otherwise hating on her state even more than they do now. 

And Andrew Hart

Most media organizations took to Twitter and mobile alerts to report that Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed an Arizona bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples on "religious freedom" grounds. But the press had a wide-ranging choice of words when reporting the news.

And then Hart points to Sam Stein's tweet about the tale told by two newspapers with their dueling headlines about Brewer's veto--the tweet that is the graphic at the head of this posting.

*The first link embedded in Zimet's article points to a "page not found" url.

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