Gay rights victory in Arizona

COMMENTARY BY
RYAN CAVISTON

In a proud victory for gay rights activists across the country, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed controversial SB1062, which would allow business owners to deny services to gay or lesbian patrons under the guise of religious freedom.

Arizona’s SB1062 is not the first controversial bill to come across the governor’s desk in Phoenix. One of the country’s most wildly criticized immigration laws was signed by Brewer in 2010, giving state law enforcement the right to stop any suspected illegal immigrant and ask for appropriate documentation. Critics of the law argued that the bill would provide justification for racial profiling.

Citing the economic impact the passage of such legislation would have on the state, which is scheduled to host the 2015 Super Bowl, as well as pressure from companies such as Delta Airlines, Apple, Major League Baseball and Marriott Hotels, several Republican senators changed course and joined in the chorus calling for Brewer to veto the legislation. The bill passed the Republican-controlled state Senate along party lines. Brewer’s veto has sparked waves of anti-gay rhetoric, as well as cries for help for Christians living in the state. Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes posted on his Twitter account that “homosexual rights trump religious rights” and “Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second class citizens.” Similarly, he refers to supporters of the gay rights movement in Arizona as “militant groups.”

What does the veto of SB1062 show us, other than that homophobia is alive and well? For starters, social conservatism is still a potent force in American politics. In the words of liberal hero Rachel Maddow: “Here’s the thing about rights — they’re not supposed to be voted on. That’s why they’re called rights.” It seems that a sizable part of our population could use a history lesson — the U.S. is very much in the middle of a new civil rights movement. “The times they are a’changin,” wrote Bob Dylan. In an age when dangerous economics, nuclear proliferation and tyrannical dictators threaten America, surely we, as a nation, have bigger things to worry about than who loves whom, or what the gender or race of our president is (see Bill O’Reilly’s “There must be a downside to a woman president” argument). This new civil rights movement is surely still fighting an uphill battle with several other states proposing or having already proposed similar laws. Meanwhile, Jack Burkman, the self-proclaimed “premier political consultant” in Washington D.C., is currently lobbying Congress to pass a law that would require the Department of Justice to enforce the barring of homosexual athletes from playing in the NFL — unless, of course, the team provides separate facilities for homosexual players.

SB1062 is part of a bigger picture of civil rights in the U.S. Surely the state leaders have far bigger things to worry about: crushing debt, pathetic education scores or “Bridgegate.”

contact the writer:
ryan.caviston@scranton.edu

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