Arizona set itself up for yet another self-inflicted political wound, international humiliation, costly boycotts and historical shame now that its legislature has passed a bill giving people the right to discriminate.
The bill was written by the Center for Arizona Policy and a Christian legal organization called the Alliance Defending Freedom. They were inspired, in part, by the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who was taken to court after refusing to shoot a gay commitment ceremony. The bill seeks to shield Christians from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who dare to seek equal protection under the law.
Specifically, the bill protects all individuals, businesses and religious institutions from discrimination lawsuits if they can show that their discriminatory actions were motivated by religious convictions.
Under the guise of religious freedom, however, the bill would enable businesses potentially to discriminate against virtually anyone–not just Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, agnostics and atheists, but also unwed mothers, Rastafarians and Budweiser T-shirt wearers. This bill is arbitrary, capricious and antithetical to the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that inform our documents of freedom.
It will lead to marginalization and oppression by allowing bigots to deny gay people access to virtually any business or service. The road to Indian genocide, Jim Crow, Japanese-American internment, the Holocaust and other iterations of human persecution began with laws that isolated and dehumanized entire groups of people.
Nevertheless, Arizona now has the dubious designation as the first state to pass an anti-gay bill that seeks to shun and segregate in the name of religion.
Similar legislation has been put forward in Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee. The Arizona measure is the only bill that has passed.
The bill passed Thursday, Gov. Jan Brewer has five days to reject it or sign it into law.