Arizona Passes Legislation Legalizing Discrimination Against LGBT People

In a (not-so) surprising turn of events yesterday, the Arizona legislature passed their version of the ‘license to discriminate’ legislation allowing religious belief-based discrimination in refusing service to LGBT people (and/or any other individual or group as long as the refusal is based in religious belief). The vote – mostly along party lines (three Republicans cross the aisle to vote against the legislation: Ethan Orr, Kate Brophy-McGee and Heather Carter) – leaves only one more obstacle prior to Arizona codifying discrimination into law.
As we reported last week when the legislation initially moved through the state Senate, SB 1062 (also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) “would allow businesses sued in a civil case to claim they have a legal right to not provide service to an individual or group because it would ‘substantially burden’ their freedom of religion.” The bill’s passage through the legislature means it will go to Governor Jan Brewer’s desk (where chances are good that it will be signed into law).
“The message that’s interpreted is we want you to work here, but we are not going to go out of our way to protect you, to protect your rights, to protect your family,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix told AZCentral.com. “God forbid should someone come to the Super Bowl and come to a restaurant that is not going to allow them in.”
Gallego isn’t alone in that thinking. Kansas’ version of the law proved so unpopular among its citizens (and the nation) that the very party that originally proposed the toxic bill quickly tabled their bill to avoid the economic backlash Arizona will certainly face should SB 1062 become law. And this wouldn’t be the first time Arizona would face such backlash (as they experienced similar backlash when they passed their controversial immigration law in 2010.
The combination of federal lawsuits and economic backlash could potentially devastate the Arizona state economy – though you’d never know it from looking at the GOP vote yesterday. It just goes to show: though GOP legislators campaign on finance and job reform, at the end of the day, regardless of state or station, culture war issues typically dominate their legislative agenda even if it means killing tourism (and their economy) in the process.

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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