Nel's New Day

February 21, 2014

Boycotts Focus on Arizona – Again

constitution-burning-485x322Couples in at least 25 states are suing for marriage equality in their home states, federal courts are overturning discriminatory constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, and a number of states are refusing to protect state anti-LGBT laws. Yet Arizona has decided to pass Senate Bill 1062 which allows anyone for any reason to refuse service to anyone if they claim they are doing so because of religious beliefs.

Last week, the bill passed the Senate with a party-line vote of 17-13. A day later, the House approved the bill with a 33-27 vote with three Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition. Democratic House Minority Leader Chad Campbell of Phoenix responded to the legislation by saying, “I’m not sure if Russia is any less progressive than Arizona now against gay rights.” He concluded, “There’s only one type of equality, and that’s equal.”

In the House, 33 members ignored Rep. Ruben Gallego when he reminded them that state is trying to attract the Super Bowl and companies like Apple and Google. “God forbid someone should come to the Super Bowl and come to a restaurant that is not going to allow them in,” he warned. “We’re saying it’s open season on gays; it’s OK to put this sign up,” he said, holding a large “No Gays Allowed” sign. The majority of the House also opposed Gallego’s bid to require businesses that refuse service to post notices at their front doors.

Like the rest of the United States, Arizona has a history of discrimination that leads to world-wide notice and boycotts. In early 1987, newly-elected Gov. Evan Mecham’s first official act was to rescind an executive order creating a Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Arizona. Originally, former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) supported Mecham in his action. Among other boycotts and protests to the loss of the state holiday, the NFL took the 1993 Super Bowl away from the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe and moved it to Pasadena. Mecham was the first Arizona governor to be impeached and left office within 15 months after his conviction. In 2010, the enactment of SB 1070, a measure dealing with illegal immigration, led to boycotts and the state paying millions of dollars in lawsuits.

On the House floor, Rep. Victoria Steele talked about how Pilgrims who came to America subjugated and slaughtered the Indians in the name of religion. She also read pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous poem posted at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Also urging Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the bill is the ACLU of Arizona:

“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.”

Rep. Mark Cardenas talked about the economic impact the legislation will have, and framed the debate as Arizona suffered when it refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day. Problems go far beyond the loss of tourism. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) has directed the chair of its board to send a letter to Brewer, urging her to veto the bill. This organization works with the Arizona Commerce Authority for business expansion or relocation to the state. The letter declares that such a law would “further the agenda to tarnish the business-friendly reputation we have all worked so tirelessly to build.”

Barry Broome, GPEC president and CEO, said the group has already heard from four companies that said they will look elsewhere if Senate Bill 1062 becomes law. Proposed legislation in Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Idaho was blocked after the business community objected.

Before Brewer signs the bill, she might want to consider other ramifications. Such a law could permit Sharia law in Arizona because the there is no sanctioned state religion. As the state Senate Democratic Leader Anna Tovar pointed out, the bill is so broad that it can permit discrimination “based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.” The bill expands  “the definition of person to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.”

If the bill becomes law, anyone who does anything in the name of religion—including physical assault—will be protected. Homeowner’s associations can keep people of color from moving into their neighborhoods; minorities can be evicted from their homes if “religion” is invoked. Even cities could ban a person or group of people, if they wish. People citing religious freedom could stone unmarried, pregnant women with impunity.


Meanwhile, a Tucson pizzeria, is taking action. Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria has a window sign with that business’s discrimination—against Arizona legislators who voted for SB 1062. Owner Anthony Rocco DiGrazia said on Facebook, “The response has been overwhelming and almost all positive from across the globe. I just want to serve dinner and own and work in a place I’m proud of. Opening the door to government-sanctioned discrimination, regardless of why, is a huge step in the wrong direction. Thanks for all the support.”

pizza 2Some media outlets have questioned whether Brewer will sign the bill because she vetoed a similar one last year. Her reason for doing that was not an objection against the bill’s content; it was a vendetta against the legislators for refusing her Medicaid expansion proposal. This year, she has no such issues. We’ll know by next week: if she either signs the bill or takes no action with five days, it will become law.



  1. Competing with Russia for most discriminatory. Olympic standards.


    Comment by Lee Lynch — February 22, 2014 @ 10:36 PM | Reply

  2. People who are Christian forget that only God has the duty to judge and condemn. These are not Christians, they are bigots.


    Comment by Jackie Saulmon Ramirez — February 22, 2014 @ 8:26 AM | Reply

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