SB 1062: ‘One of the saddest days I have ever had as an Arizonan’

Ross D. Franklin, APMargaret Jean Plews works on a chalk drawing as she joined nearly 250 gay rights supporters protesting SB1062 at the Arizona Capitol, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Phoenix.
Ross D. Franklin, AP
Margaret Jean Plews works on a chalk drawing as she joined nearly 250 gay rights supporters protesting SB1062 at the Arizona Capitol, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Phoenix.

On Feb. 20, the Arizona State Legislature passed the discriminatory Senate Bill 1062, which was identical to House Bill 2153 when it was considered in the Arizona House of Representatives.

This bill promotes extremism and would create opportunities for discrimination against classes of people who are not protected by federal laws. It was designed to target the LGBTQ community and to undermine the local governments in Arizona that are passing civil rights laws to protect the LGBTQ community.

As I write this column, it is unclear whether Gov. Jan Brewer will sign or veto SB 1062. I can only hope that someday, we will be able to look back at this as a footnote in the fight for equality in our state.

Though the federal government has given protected status to other groups, such as minorities, that have historically suffered discrimination, the LGBTQ community has not yet been given that protection. Some states have been pushing forward by passing state anti-discrimination laws and marriage equality laws. At the state government level, Arizona is lagging behind other reformers. However, several cities in Arizona have been aggressive about affording the LGBTQ community rights under city ordinances, especially in the area of employment discrimination.

SB 1062 is an attempt to stymie that progress under the pretext of religious freedom. It is also completely unnecessary legislation. Arizona has an existing law that organizations can use as a defense when it is possible that a state or local government requirement infringes on its religious beliefs. SB 1062 expands that to individuals, businesses and other entities.

This change creates a justification for discrimination. It effectively gives any person or business a way to justify ignoring the LGBTQ civil rights laws recently enacted by cities including Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.

SB 1062 opens the doors to attacks on people who don’t have protected status at the federal level but do have protected status in some Arizona cities. It is definitely a step back on the historical timeline of civil rights.

I have urged Gov. Brewer to veto this bill. She has said that economic development is important to our state, and she has touted the “great Arizona comeback,” announcing earlier this year that we are open for business.

This law says we’re only open for business if you are a certain kind of person. If you are not that certain kind of person, SB 1062 sends a clear message. It says, “We don’t want you here. We don’t want your business. We don’t like your kind, and we aren’t going to protect you.”

Any student of history should recognize that sentiment. It troubles me greatly to know my colleagues are perpetuating and enabling those beliefs with the passage of this bill.

SB 1062 is born of the same lack of understanding and intolerance that led to the laws that allowed slavery and that prevented women from voting.

The extremists at the Arizona Legislature are sending a bad message to the rest of the nation with this bill. Other states considered passing similar legislation but they rejected it because they had the wisdom to realize that it hurts people.

The day this bill passed the Legislature was probably one of the saddest days I have ever had as an Arizonan. I have been a state lawmaker for eight years, and I have never seen anything like this. SB 1062 is state-sanctioned discrimination, and there is no doubt in my mind that this bill will result in discrimination specifically against the LGBTQ community.

This is not what most people in Arizona want. We are a state that encourages independence, individuality, and entrepreneurism. This bill flies in the face of those Arizona values. If the governor signs this bill into law, she will severely undermine our principles as a state and a country.

Equality means equality for everyone, not just certain people. Arizonans embrace this idea, and I hope the governor will too.

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