At press time Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a bill that would have had ramifications for LGBT individuals who wish to visit Arizona and, by extension, tourism in the Grand Canyon State.
Some proponents of the bill claimed that SB 1062 allows individuals and entities additional defenses when being asked to do something that infringes on their religious liberties. Some opponents feel the law is just a way to legalize discrimination against same-sex couples and, potentially, minorities.
“I think that what the bill is trying to do is carve out a very large exception to the state of Arizona’s ability to prevent discrimination,” West Hollywood Councilman John Duran said. “The way that the statute is drafted, you can have a religious objection and get around any of the state laws that prevent discrimination.”
He said California landlords made similar arguments years ago when they didn’t want to rent apartments to interracial or unmarried couples. The effect of the legislation could be broader than sexual orientation, Duran said.
“It comes down to the basic notion of what America is all about,” he said, adding that the nation is comprised of a diverse group of ethnicities and religions. Current laws level the playing field and ensure there can be no discrimination in an employment setting or by businesses that provide public accommodations, Duran said. “That is basis for the broad reach of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. …To me, there’s not much of a distinction from [SB 1062 to] the lunch counter in the Deep South with the Jim Crow laws.”
The councilman said the entire purpose of civil rights laws was to protect minorities from the oppression of the majority.
“It didn’t matter what your personal reasons were,” Duran said. “In a civil society, ultimately as Americans, we decided we wouldn’t tolerate that kind of discrimination. …This is just a regressive move on the part of Arizona that will cause them embarrassment one day.”
The Center for Arizona Policy, which pushed the bill, cited a New Mexico court case, Elane Photography v. Willock, in which a photographer was successfully sued after declining to take wedding photographs for a same-sex couple due to religious reasons.
The organization also cited a Hobby Lobby lawsuit in which the retailer’s insurance forced it to cover abortions, when the company does not support abortion. A representative said SB 1062 simply gives entities another defense in court, so that they are not sued for their religious beliefs.
“The attacks on SB 1062 show politics at its absolute worst,” the center’s president, Cathi Herrod, said in a statement. “They represent precisely why so many people are sick of the modern political debate. Instead of having an honest discussion about the true meaning of religious liberty, opponents of the bill have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks and irresponsible reporting. Our elected leaders have a fundamental duty to protect the religious freedom of every Arizonan, and that’s what SB 1062 is all about.”
She said “fear-mongering” from opponents is unrelated to the language of the bill and proves that hostility toward religious individuals is real.
“It’s a shame we even need a bill like this in America. But growing hostility against freedom in our nation, and the increasing use of government to threaten and punish its own citizens, has made it necessary,” Herrod said.
If enacted, the bill could have affected California-to-Arizona tourism. Duran said he likes to spend time in Arizona, but would have reconsidered had Brewer signed the bill. Negative backlash and possible boycotts were on the line.
According to a Visit Phoenix representative, Southern California is a key market for tourism in Phoenix. According to government documents cited by the representative, approximately 10,427 cars cross into Arizona from California each day. The city also has a high frequency of non-stop flights from the greater Los Angeles area.
The potential impact on the California market was among the reasons several businesses and organizations in Arizona had denounced the bill. In fact, some business organizations worried that the effects had already begun.
“The Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association stands united with Arizona’s business community in our opposition to SB 1062,” association officials said in a statement. “Having already received hundreds of emails and messages from visitors who have cancelled their trips, we urge a swift veto of this legislation to send a reminder to the world that Arizona is a wonderful and diverse destination that welcomes all visitors.”
Locally, The Abbey Food & Bar has enacted its own version of SB 1062, except it’s discriminatory legislators who will be refused service. The bar and restaurant is currently working on adding the offenders to its denied entry list — complete with headshots.
“It’s a very big list,” spokesman Brian Rosman said, adding that the list also includes legislators who voted for a similar bill that failed in Kansas.
He said that, in practicality, its not likely that any of the legislators would frequent The Abbey anyway.
“I’d say it’s just as likely as any LGBT person in Kansas or Arizona infringing on somebody’s religious rights because they’re gay,” Rosman said. He added that The Abbey serves residents of Arizona “all the time.”
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