Religious conservatives are up-in-arms over 69-year-old Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s big decision on what to do with Senate Bill 1062, permitting business on religious grounds to deny goods-and-services to gays and lesbians. Brewer’s known for controversy, signing Arizona’s unconstitutional illegal alien search-and-seizure law, permitting police to demand immigration papers on suspected illegal aliens based solely on discretion, not probable cause. Now comes SB 1062 allowing Arizona business owners to discriminate agaisnt homosexuals, denying them access to goods-and-services to allow business owners to remain true to religious convictions. Arizona’s six-term Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Brewer to veto the bill or face federal courts where it would get tossed out. Brewer’s only conflict is how much cash she’d forfeit in fundraising from conservatives.
Pushed by the social conservative Center of Arizona Policy opposing abortion and gay marriage, CAP President Cathi Herrod urged Brewer to resist “fear mongering” and sign the bill when it crosses her desk. “The attacks on SB 1062 . . . represent precisely why so many people are sick of the modern political debate,” Herrod wrote in her CAP’s weekly blog. “Instead of having an honest discussion about the true meaning of religious liberty, opponents of the bill have hijacked the discussion through personal attacks, and irresponsible reporting. What Herrod doesn’t get about the Constitution’s “Separation Clause” is anyone’s guess. Whatever Herrord—or her group’s view on abortion or homosexuals—they have no place in the public square. No one’s hijacked her cause. She misunderstands or rejects the Bill of Rights’ protections of discrimination—religious or otherwise—against all citizens.
It’s inconceivable that responsible legislators would sign onto a bill that “respects religious freedom” at the expense of gays and lesbians. “Our elected officials have a fundamental duty to protect the religious freedom of every Arizonian, and that’s what SB 1062 is all about,” said Herrod, insisting the bill’s about religious liberty. Herrod knows the First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty don’t extend to the public square where businesses—on religious grounds—can deny goods-and-services to homosexuals or anyone supporting Roe v. Wade. Raising the religious issue, Herrod doesn’t need SB 1062 to protect her religious freedom, she needs the bill to discriminate against pro-abortion and gay groups that disagree with her religious views. Herrod suffered a defeat last year when the legislature refused to write anti-abortion language into Medicaid expansion.
Working through the Arizona legislature, it’s surprising that some many elected officials would sign onto a clearly discriminatory legislation. While Herrod sees the bill as protecting religious freedom, anyone denied access to goods-and-services would see otherwise. Passing SB 1062 would send the wrong message to state legislatures around the country. While states want the feds to recognize regional differences, every state signs onto the Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause,” where federal law trumps states’ rights. When California voters passed social and religious conservative-backed Prop 8 Nov. 4, 2008 banning same sex marriage, it didn’t take long for courts to declare it unconstitutional. It wouldn’t take long for the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to toss out SB 1062. While mistakes happen with ballot initiatives, it’s difficult to see how elected officials could pass unconstitutional bills..
Unlike Arizona’s homespun legislation, California’s ballot initiative process has no protections with executive vetoes. Californai’s Gov. Jerry Brown, formerly the state’s attorney general in 2008, was helpless trying to prevent Nov. 4, 2008 Prop 8 from wasting taxpayers’ money ending up on the state ballot. At least Brewer has the opportunity to veto an unconstitutional piece of legislation. Urged to veto the bill by McCain, Apple Computer, Inc. and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, Brewer knows she’s got the business community on her side. “There is a genuine concern throughout the business community that this bill, if signed into law, would jeopardize all that has been accomplished so far,” said Parker, spinning the problem as one of pure economics. Signing the bill would signal to world at large how utterly backward Arizona has become in the scheme of things.
Claiming SB 1062 defends the religious freedom of Arizona’s well-intentioned business community ignore the Bill of Rights, disenfranchising taxpayers with differing views on abortion and same-sex marriage. “We were uncomfortable with it to start with and went along with it thinking it was good for the caucus,” said Parker, admitting that things went over the deep end with Arizona’s social and religious conservatives. Whatever the sentiment in conservative circles about abortion and gay rights, the fact that SB 1062 passed both house of the Arizona legislature sends bleak message about Arizona’s elected officials. SB 1062 doesn’t protect religious freedom of social and religious conservatives, it violates the Constitution and legalizes discrimination. Whatever Brewer does with the bill, it won’t survive endless legal challenges if the bill becomes Arizona law.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.