The Spectacle Blog

Calling That Arizona Law “Anti-Gay” is Misleading

By on 2.25.14 | 3:38PM

Arizona is torn over SB 1062, which has reached the desk of Governor Jan Brewer.

No one knows yet if Brewer will veto the bill, which permits any business or organization to refuse service to anyone if they cite sincere religious convictions. Brewer told CNN:

"I don't rely a whole lot on my gut because I have to look at what (the bill) says and what the law says and take that information and do the right thing," she said from the National Governors Association's winter meeting in Washington. "I will do the right thing for the state of Arizona."

Uproar and outrage has swept the country. Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have come out against the bill and three others who voted for it have now flip-flopped. The bill passed the state house of representatives 33-27 and the senate 17-13.

The opposition mainly comes from those who claim this bill is “anti-gay," but the bill doesn't actually mention homosexuals at all. It states that anyone acting out of sincere religious belief has the right to deny or allow certain persons into their group or establishment. In other words, a gay bar is free to block heterosexual men or women from entering (if they can cite sincere religious beliefs) and a mosque doesn’t have to permit Christians on their premises. The bill protects the rights of all religions equally before the law. It reads (capital letters denote additions to the previous legislation):

"Exercise of religion" means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF RELIGION, INCLUDING THE ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief… Except as provided in subsection C OF THIS SECTION, STATE ACTION shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

Many people fear the far-reaching implications of the legislation and what sort of bigotry it might lead to. However, to say this is simply about Christians being able to refuse to photograph a gay couple is misleading. The law protects any sincere religious beliefs:

"This bill has nothing to do with discrimination. It's protecting basic freedoms that belong to everyone," [Kellie Fiedorek of Alliance Defending Freedom] said, explaining that it would protect a gay photographer's decision not to work for Westboro Baptist Church, or Muslims who don't want to sell ‘pork sandwiches on a Saturday.’”

The media’s treatment of this bill as an “anti-gay” monster prohibits everyday Americans from knowing what is actually contained in its short two pages. Decisions on whether or not to support the bill should be based off of all the facts. And the fact is that this bill does not target any specific group or individuals.

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