Then and Now

Back before the Civil Rights movement, the Civil Rights Act, and desegregation, African-Americans were treated as second class citizens often in horrendous ways.

Even after things were supposed to have changed, some people continued the bad treatment, but conveniently excused it by using the insulting phrase, “Some of my best friends are Black”.

This was somehow supposed to excuse them from their actions and attitudes because, certainly, someone with Black friends meant nothing by their actions, and, certainly, their attitudes could be overlooked.

Times have changed, but this tactic has merely been re-applied to a new group.

No matter how demeaning the words or treatment, certainly these can be excused because, after all, “I have friends who are Gay”.

“I don’t want them to have all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, I will willingly spread all sorts of lies and misrepresentations for personal and political gain, but it is okay because I have Gay friends”.

Well if you did, and they were truly friends of yours, why would you allow them to be treated like second class citizens? and why would you cooperate in that?

Do you not love and respect your friends, or do you find it so easy to find things that allow you to treat some of them differently than you would your other friends?

This same claptrap came up in a recent discussion of Arizona’s anti-Gay law.

Lots of those, “I really have nothing against Gay people, but……”, and the ubiquitous, “I hate the sin, but love the sinner”, a statement which, of course, is usually illustrated by treating gay people, even celibate ones, as if they are involved in sinful acts.

Just saying the words “I am Gay” equates the person with the “sin” so mistreatment is allowed and condoned.

Calling it a rushed process which resulted in a bill that was basically a solution in search of a problem, three Arizona Republican state senators who voted for Senate Bill 1062 now say they made a bad decision, and are asking Governor Jan Brewer to veto the right-to-refuse-service bill.

"We feel it was a solution in search of a problem," said Senator Bob Worsley who held a news conference along with Senator Steve Pierce.

They joined with Senate Majority Whip Adam Driggs in sending a letter to Governor Brewer asking for a veto.

"While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance," the three wrote. "These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm."

State Senator Steve Pierce, who voted for Arizona’s Senate Bill 1062, now thinks the controversial bill was a bad idea.

“I don’t like the negative picture of Arizona, and I’m on board asking the governor to veto the bill. To say (the bill is) anti-gay is following the feeding frenzy... I have friends that are gay, and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt them”.

But voting for a bill that allows his “friends” to be discriminated against and be treated as second class citizens was okay.

With friends like that……

So, in a fine example of avoiding responsibility for the senate’s erroneous action the three senators seem to hold that it was not they who did anything wrong, but everyone else for bad mouthing a very bad bill, and Pierce feels bad that his friends took offense with his action.

Shame on them for making him feel bad.

Perhaps it's not the allegations about the bill that are causing the "state immeasurable harm", but the bill itself.

The governor has until this Saturday to decide whether to veto the bill, which would satisfy business leaders because signing it into law could put the state's economy and tourism industry in jeopardy.

The alternative to either vetoing it, or signing it is to let it sit on her desk long enough to become law without a signature.

Explaining the rushed process, Pierce and Worsley said the bill was moved along very quickly, not giving them enough time to convince fellow lawmakers to vote against it. An odd stance for two senators to be taking now when they had both voted for the bill.

Reaction from constituents and the business community reinforced their discomfort with their "yes" votes.

Senator Worsley noted the bill made a very minor tweak to the state's existing statute protecting religious freedom, which makes him now question why the bill was needed. He also said that when he asked Senate President Andy Biggs over the weekend to allow the Senate to reconsider last week's vote, Biggs declined. A second vote on the bill would have meant its failure since these three senators who have joined with the Senate Democrats to defeat it.

Meanwhile State Senator Al Melvin, a Republican who is running for governor, went on CNN to defend the bill, but other than coming across as confused, did little to help in the bill’s defense.

When Anderson Cooper asked about the bill’s application to some specific possible events, and when he was unable to give an example of any event that would illustrate the need for it, Melvin simply repeated that the bill protects “religious freedom”.

COOPER: You say it’s all about protecting people of faith in Arizona. Can you give me a specific example of someone in Arizona who’s been forced to do something against their religious belief or [been] successfully sued because of their faith?
MELVIN: Again, I think if anything, this bill is preemptive: to protect priests —
COOPER: You can’t give me one example of this actually happening?
MELVIN: No I can’t, but we’ve seen it in other states and we don’t want it to happen here.

The states that Senator Melvin referred to, as was made clear later in the interview, were those states that already include Gay people in their anti-discrimination laws while Arizona does not, so instances in those states actually were covered by existing law, and refusing service to Gay people in those states violated exisitng state law.

Since Arizona does not have a state law covering gay people against discrimination, this “religious freedom” law is unnecessary overkill merely to pander two a particular segment in the population during a mid-term election year.

It is merely a clever attempt to buy votes that has come back to haunt the state.

The bill will also cause a lot of confusion in a state that relies heavily on tourism and conventions as it eliminates the distinction between an individual and a small business when it comes to protecting religious freedom.

Arizona’s bill would let any individual within a public business assert a religious belief, and make an end run around any laws that conflicted with them, such as the local ordinances in cities like Tucson and Phoenix.

Businesses realize that any employee who represents the company to the consumer can act independently and represent themselves, while being seen as the face of the company. If a Gay couple went to a hotel that might on paper welcome everyone, they could be turned away depending on which desk clerk they got, and this could happen without the knowledge of the hotel owners.

The owners could be blindsided by this and face whatever actions follow as places like Phoenix and Tucson have Gay people included in their local nondiscrimination ordinances, and could end up facing law suits in those locations.

Worse, when defending the bill, Melvin was unable to explain a need for it.

Its authors have already made clear that this bill is to ensure that anti-GLBT discrimination can take place, but Melvin did not want to come out and say this.

It is now up to the governor.

Other red states have similar laws pending, but they may want to keep an eye on what Jan Brewer does in the next few days.
 

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