Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Arizona’s “Religious Freedom” Bill (aka SB 1062): Bad, Bad Bill that Needs to be Vetoed, Stat

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What is wrong with the Arizona legislature?

Last week, on a mostly party-line vote, the Arizona legislature passed controversial state Senate Bill 1062, titled the “Religious Freedom of Expression” bill in much of the media. This bill seeks to amend the Arizona state statutes in order to allow people to deny services to people who don’t meet their own religious standards, as best I can discern, and is widely seen as an anti-LGBT measure.

As you might expect, many people — in and out of Arizona — are calling upon Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) to veto SB 1062, including both of its United States Senators — Republican John McCain, and Republican Jeff Flake. In addition, three Republican members of the state Senate who just voted for the bill last week are also calling for it to be vetoed. And their reasoning is somewhat surprising.

From the story at the Los Angeles Times:

“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,” State Sens. Bob Worsley, Adam Driggs and Steve Pierce wrote in a letter. “These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.”

In other words, they are saying the perception of the bill is harming the state much more than they thought, so the bill should be vetoed even though they still believe it’s a good bill.

(Hard to believe they didn’t understand just last week that they were making a mistake, but better late than never.)

The problem I see with SB 1062 goes far beyond it conceivably being an anti-LGBT measure. While that’s more than bad enough, after reading this bill in its entirety, I see it as having a much more fundamental flaw:

It is against the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plain and simple.

Why?

Well, the First Amendment is pretty straightforward. It says that you cannot establish a state religion, but you cannot deny someone the ability to express his or her own religious faith, either. And it also says you cannot deny freedom of expression (among several other things) . . . all of which seem in direct contradiction to Arizona’s SB 1062.

You see, if you allow a bill like this to stand as read, it conceivably allows someone to deny someone service based upon your religious faith or your own, personal beliefs. It makes your own discrimination allowable under Arizona’s state constitution, and further it shields you from harm if someone then sues you because you contravened their rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution of freedom of expression or freedom of religion.

None of that is acceptable.

Furthermore, there are additional, practical reasons as to why SB 1062 should be vetoed without delay by Gov. Brewer, including these stated by the website Arizona Central:

The CEOs of the state’s top business groups – Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council – want Brewer to veto.

“The legislation is also already clearly having a negative effect on our tourism industry, one of the largest sectors of the economy,” several of the CEOs wrote. “The bill could also harm job creation efforts and our ability to attract and retain talent.”

From reading this, it seems these CEOs see SB 1062 as being a job-killer.

But wait, here’s more. From Arizona Central’s editorial:

The damage will grow the longer this bill survives. Brewer can start the healing with a quick, decisive veto. She can use the opportunity to loudly and clearly tell the world that Arizona is an open, welcoming state that does not countenance discrimination.

The Legislature’s approval of the bill undermined the state’s goal of attracting high-tech industry. Seventy percent of people born after 1980 support same-sex marriage, according to Pew Research. High-tech firms locate in places talented, young people find attractive.

The right to refuse service bill makes Arizona an unattractive butt of late-night comedy and snarky tweets.

While I’m not necessarily moved by the need for any state to specifically attract “young people,” I agree that if you want high-tech industry, you want smart people of all ages. And most smart people just do not see the practical sense in legalized discrimination, regardless of age . . . which is why there are people in all age groups who believe marriage should be a civil right irrespective of whether or not your partner is of the opposite sex or the same sex, providing you are both of sound mind and are both adults.

So to sum up, here’s the two big problems with Arizona’s SB 1062:

  • It appears to legalize discrimination against people based on a person’s religious beliefs — a no-no under the U.S. Constitution.
  • And it appears to be something that’s highly impractical that actively harms the state of Arizona.

If I were Gov. Brewer, I would veto this bill without any further delay . . . it’s clearly the right thing to do, it will save the state of Arizona from having to defend this terrible bill in court (where it’s likely to be struck down and the state penalized for wasting the federal government’s precious time), and it will stop harming the state’s image in the court of public opinion.

The Governor has until February 28 to either veto this bill or sign it. So keep your eyes on Arizona, to see if she’ll do the right thing . . .

Or not.

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One Response

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  1. […] is a very good thing, both for Arizona and for the nation. As I said earlier, this was terrible legislation. It was impractical at best, too broadly worded (as Gov. Brewer […]


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