Giving hope that just maybe we haven't been thrown back a century, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Arizona Friday to protest against the state's new anti-gay legislation, which passed both chambers of the Arizona state legislature on Thursday. The controversial (cough, disgusting) bill gives businesses and government agencies the right turn away pretty much anyone, as long as doing so is “substantially motivated by a religious belief.” It has yet to be signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, and it's still not clear which side she'll come down on.
Roughly 200 protestors joined a rally organized by Wingspan, a Southern Arizona non-profit LGBT community center, and marched on the governor state office building in Tucson on Friday afternoon; another 250 demonstrators congregated around the state capitol in Phoenix, holding signs which read, "What About Love Thy Neighbor?" in order to protest SB1062.
The bill, pushed forward mainly by conservative Republicans, provides legal protection for private and public businesses that decide not to serve someone, anyone, because of their religious beliefs. Similar bills have previously flopped in Kansas and Idaho, and, only earlier this week, three more states tried — and failed — to push forward legislation that would essentially do the same thing. Arizona, though, had no issues getting the measure through, voting on Thursday to make discrimination permissible “whether or not the
exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious
belief” — thus, unfortunately, making history.
Shortly after the bill passed, the ACLU released the following statement:
"Once again Arizona’s Legislature is on the wrong side of history. Four years ago, after the passage of SB 1070, we were ridiculed for legalizing discrimination against brown people. The targets today are gay and lesbian Arizonans. They own homes, run businesses and pay taxes just like everyone else but under the guise of religious freedom they are now being vilified by Arizona lawmakers. This bill is not about God or faith. There are already laws on the books in Arizona protecting religious freedom. What today’s bill does is allow private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming."
The measure could in fact have an even bigger impact than the ACLU's statement suggests. Although the bill would most likely disproportionately affect the LGBT community, sexual orientation isn't specified as the only permissible grounds on which to refuse service — which means that the targets of discrimination could actually be far more widespread, potentially encompassing race or even gender.
Most people on the sane side of the aisle seem to be realizing just what a big deal this bill is — even Meghan McCain, John McCain's daughter, has called on Brewer to veto the legislation.
Others are voicing their indignation over Twitter — but whether Brewer will listen, remains to be seen.