By Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR Policy Analysis Center, Phoenix Office
This week, all eyes were on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) as yet another piece of hateful legislation sat on her desk awaiting her signature. Yet rather than pandering to unsubstantiated fears—this time—Brewer made a choice that was right for all Arizonans by vetoing SB 1062.
SB 1062 would have allowed businesses to legally deny service to customers if their religious beliefs were burdened. Although not explicitly stated, the bill was designed to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. As the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in this country, NCLR was appalled that this bill passed through the Arizona legislature. An attack on the civil rights of the LGBT community is an attack on the civil rights of us all.
If this piece of legislation showed us anything, it’s that the Arizona legislature is completely out of touch with their constituents. This revelation is not exactly news to NCLR, which recently fought to gut Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, which would have legalized racial profiling.
Contrary to the image of Arizona that the legislature has created, the Arizonans I know celebrate diversity and would not support a piece of legislation that seeks to discriminate against one group of people. As we saw over the past two weeks, Arizonans were not willing to stay quiet. Businesses, community leaders, and everyday citizens across the state pushed back against the extremists championing this bill.
We were especially lucky to have the business community come out in strong opposition to SB 1062. Both Major League Baseball and the National Football League issued statements against the bill, voicing their strong support for the rights and inclusion of the LGBT community, and more than 80 companies, trade organizations, and other business groups, including Apple, signed a letter encouraging Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. I’m sure the economic backlash that resulted from SB 1070 was weighing heavily on her mind as she contemplated whether to sign this piece of legislation.
Still, what’s more important to remember is that protecting a person’s civil rights should never be a business decision. While the economic argument can be particularly persuasive for certain legislators, we have to move beyond putting a price tag on our citizens’ rights. We should oppose laws such as SB 1070 and SB 1062 because they lead to discrimination and racial profiling, not because they cost us millions of dollars. These bills run contrary to the very principles that this nation was founded upon.
Governor Brewer said it best: “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is nondiscrimination.”
While we celebrate this victory, we must also recognize the priorities that the Arizona legislature has clearly laid out and the chance that more bills like this will pass through this state house and senate. But we can win if the LGBT community, civil rights groups, and immigrants’ rights advocates stand together. Rooting out discrimination remains a long and arduous task in many areas of this country, but together we can make sure that legalizing discrimination is damn near impossible.