Demonstrators from across Arizona are pushing back against their legislature, which just passed a bill allowing businesses and individuals to deny services to LGBT people—under the banner of "religious freedom."
The bill, which is on its way to the governor's desk for either a sweep of her pen or her veto stamp, stands in stark opposition to the shift in American beliefs about equality for LGBT people.
“This is another example of how the state legislature is on the wrong side of history,” says Alessandra Soler, executive director of Arizona’s chapter of the ACLU. “The bill isn’t necessary; we have very strong laws that protect religious rights, but here we have a bill that’s a free pass to discriminate and has nothing to do with God and faith but is about using religion to discriminate.”
During a protest of about 500 people on Sunday, supporters were so fervent that even technical difficulties couldn't slow them down.
“At the last minute our megaphone wasn’t working, so I ran to the costume shop downtown and asked if I could rent one; the shop’s owner asked what it was for, and she just gave it to us,” says Chelsea Byers, a community organizer and Democratic Party worker. “I spent all morning Saturday putting out fliers at the local businesses; many were so eager to support us, people were almost grateful that we were doing it.”
The fate of the bill is in Gov. Jan Brewer’s hands; she has until Saturday to sign or veto it. Soler is guardedly optimistic and is heartened by the recent willingness of the business community—and even other Republican politicians—to come out against the bill.
While the bill waits on Brewer’s desk, outside the Capitol, around Arizona, and across the country, outrage and protests are growing bigger and louder.
Here are some of our favorite reactions.
Business Gets on Board
Several national corporations, including Apple, American Airlines, Intel, Marriott, and PetSmart, have urged Brewer to veto the bill, with Intel saying that it runs counter to its own policy, which “values and welcomes diversity in the workplace.” On Monday, the Association of Flight Attendants marched on the Capitol building, urging a veto.
Even the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee threw a flag on the play.
In a statement, the committee said, “We share the NFL’s core values which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination.…We do not support this legislation.”
Some small-business owners are taking matters into their own hands: In Tucson, Rocco’s Pizzeria posted a sign reading, “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators.”
Internet Darlings Weigh In
In a letter addressed to the state of Arizona, gay blogger and former Star Trek star George Takei writes, “You say this bill protects ‘religious freedom,’ but no one is fooled. When I was younger, people used ‘God’s Will’ as a reason to keep the races separate, too. Make no mistake, this is the new segregation, yours is a Jim Crow law, and you are about to make yourself ground zero.” Takei says he and his partner—a Phoenix native—will no longer vacation in Arizona, adding that if the appeal to common decency doesn’t inspire a veto, “I’ll bet a big hit to your pocketbook and state coffers will.”
The New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz made a similar point in a bit of cutting satire: “The state of Arizona found itself in the middle of a conundrum today as it awoke to the awkward realization that gay people have money and buy stuff.”
Republicans Reverse Course
The bill passed the Senate 17–13 in a straight party line vote, but on Monday, Sens. Adam Driggs, Steve Pierce, and Bob Worsley—three of the Republicans who originally voted to pass the measure—reversed course.
“While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance…. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm,” they wrote in a letter to Brewer.
Worsley went further, telling the AP, “I feel very bad and it was a mistake,” perhaps emboldened by watching other prominent Republicans coming out against it, including Sen. John McCain and several Republican gubernatorial candidates.
McCain's daughter Meghan got in on the criticism too:
.@GovBrewer please do the right thing for ALL Arizonans and veto SB 1062 or be the governor remembered for legalizing discrimination.— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) February 22, 2014
Social Media Makes the Case
A poignant sign is making the rounds:
Facebook profile photos are being replaced with this:
And this photo from the 1960 sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., is circulating, along with text that kind of says it all: