Okay, so if Arizona Governor Jan Brewer – she of the pointing finger in President Obama’s face; I’m so not a fan – passes the Exercise of Religion bill making it legal for business owners to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers if it pleases their religious beliefs, I will not be visiting that state, like, ever. In fact, I will be boycotting anything that starts with and ends with A, period.
Whatever next? Are we going to reinstitute prohibition? Maybe resurrect Jim Crow while we’re at it? Come on. I know – better than some – that we do not in fact live in a post-racial, completely gender and difference supportive society, but this is pushing it a bit too far, no?
Supporters of this particular legislation are using a case where a photographer was sued by a same sex couple, and lost, after refusing to shoot their wedding ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, just looking at that rather simple sentence, that was bogus. People should be able to refuse jobs if the job offends one of their deeply rooted beliefs without fear of legal or monetary reprisal. But it’s a pretty big leap from losing one, or even a few, law suit to making wholesale discrimination of complete strangers legal. Am I in the minority – pun intended – of people who think it’s ironic that in support of religious freedom, the state of Arizona is considering legally sanctioning other kinds of discrimination?
Bill supporters are saying it only guarantees rights already in place thanks to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But it’s the consequences we have to think about. To my understanding – and I’m open to different interpretations – this bill essentially makes it legal to discriminate against anyone for any reason, if you use religion as your reason why.
How do bills like this even get this far in our legislative process? It’s scary. I say again, what next? If this becomes law it could be like Pandora’s Box, opening a door back in time to sanction behaviors that we as a society are trying to move on from. But what do I know? Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s important for the rest of us to know that this level of bias and preponderance for discrimination is alive and kicking with steel toed boots. After all, you can’t fight a devil you can’t see.
If I were really mean – and of course I’m not – it would almost be worth passing the bill into law just to see what happens to the state of Arizona’s economy. I’d be willing to bet the state would suffer and suffer big. But with my luck my Illinois tax dollars would end up bailing their sorry tails out of trouble. We’ll see what happens.
A version of this blog appeared in Diversity Executive magazine online.