This past week, the big question in the great state of Arizona was “will she or won’t she?” — with “she” being the state’s governor, Jan Brewer, and the question being whether or not she’d veto an act passed by the state legislature making it legal for businesses to refuse service to gay or lesbian people on “religious grounds.”
The bill, which would allow businesses to do to gay and lesbian customers what they can’t do to black, Latino, Jewish, etc. ones, all in the name of religious freedom, passed the state House 33 to 27 and the Senate 17 to 13.
The hullaballoo was fierce and immediate, with gay and lesbian activists such as actor and politician George Takei urging a boycott of the state if the law takes effect, and business leaders calling for Brewer to veto the bill because it would kill jobs and commerce.
Companies like Apple (which is planning to build a plant in the state), American Airlines and Marriott also called for a veto.
Officials of the NFL, which is holding next year’s Super Bowl in Arizona, issued a statement saying, “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard,” thus raising fears that they might actually move the Super Bowl, like they did in 1992 when Arizona refused to enact a Martin Luther King Day holiday.
Interestingly, among the people urging a veto of the bill were three of the senators who’d actually voted for it.
“While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties,” wrote Sens. Bob Worsley, Steve Pierce and Adam Driggs (the majority whip), “the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.”
Turns out religious principle might end up costing money. Can’t have that, can we?
This whole argument that we should be allowed to discriminate against people if we can find some justification in the Bible raises the question: Where does it end? I frequently get emails from a virulent racist who peppers his angry and often incoherent screeds with supposed biblical support for the oppression of — well, I can’t use some of the words he uses.
And this fellow isn’t alone. Should people like that be allowed to refuse to serve African-Americans, Latinos, Jews or interracial couples on the ground that their interpretation of the Bible forbids mixing of the races, even at lunch counters? Are we going to return to the vileness of Jim Crow laws so long as we can drape that ugliness in religious robes?
Finally, Gov. Brewer saw sense and vetoed the bill. I’m sure a lot of people who would have loved to freely exercise their hatred in the name of the Baby Jesus were let down. But I want to help, because that’s the kind of guy I am.
If you really want to live in a country where they put the gays in their place, may I suggest Russia? They’re all about conservative Christian values these days. Of course, the weather is horrific, the food is worse, the plumbing doesn’t work, and packs of feral dogs roam the streets, but these should be small prices to pay to safeguard yourself from having to deal with gay people.
Or how about Uganda? Their president recently signed a bill that makes homosexual acts punishable by life in prison. The original version of the bill made those acts punishable by death, and hey, you can’t hardly get more biblical than that.
Just last week, a Ugandan newspaper helpfully published a list of what it called the country’s “200 top” gays, to make it easier for the authorities to enforce traditional family values at gunpoint. Now, the country is periodically racked by unrest followed by vicious government crackdowns and there’s terrible poverty and disease everywhere, but hey, there probably won’t be any gay people coming into your business if you set it up there.
At least as far as you’ll know. Because discriminating against gay and lesbian people doesn’t make fewer of them. It just makes for more misery in the world.
All in the name of God, of course.