Watch Out

02.24.14

Arizona’s Pro-Discrimination Law Won’t Stop With Gays

If Republicans allow businesses to refuse people in the name of religious freedom, you can expect women, minorities, and others to get the cold shoulder.

If the Republican-controlled Arizona state legislature has its way, gays could be thrown out of bars, restaurants, and hotels across the state.

Last week it passed a bill that would permit businesses to deny services to any person if doing so would substantially burden the business owners “exercise of religion.”  Why? Because the Bible condemns such homosexual unions. In essence, this measure would legally sanction discrimination against gay Americans by masquerading as a defense of religious freedom.

When I first read about this proposed law, my reaction was probably the same as many others: Are you f#@#ing kidding me?!  But they’re not. And even scarier is that Arizona isn’t the only state where Republicans are trying to to turn the Bible into the basis for American law. The Republican-controlled Kansas House of Representatives passed a similar bill two weeks ago, while Idaho and Utah have considered similar measures. 

For a moment, imagine you’re part of a same-sex couple at a restaurant in Arizona after this law went into effect. The owner walks up to you, and in front of other customers, announces that you and your partner will not be served simply because you’re gay. I can’t even imagine the embarrassment and frustration that would cause.  And the worst part is the owner would be legally protected to do just that.

Let’s put side the legal challenges to this bill for a moment—and there will be many. I have some practical questions about exactly how this law would work. So, here are a few:

-How does a business owner know if two people are a same sex couple or just same sex friends? Sure, some conservatives likely have “gaydar.” After all, they are obsessed with gays.  But if they can’t figure it out, will they ask subtle questions to smoke out “the gay,” such as: What channel is Bravo on your cable system? If you answer too quickly, they got you. Or maybe:  What was the name of Lady Gaga’s last  tour?  You get that right, no service.  

What channel is Bravo on your cable system? If you answer too quickly, they got you.

-Which religions advocate discrimination? Apparently, there are religions that support discrimination but the proposed law doesn’t list them.  The Republican champions of this law should inform us which faiths mandate discrimination against our fellow Americans.

-Who else can be denied services? The proposed Arizona also law doesn’t warn the public about which religions don’t approve of which people. Nothing could spoil a family vacation to Arizona more than going to check into the hotel and discovering that the owner doesn’t religiously approve of you. So, in an effort to help people, here are a few groups in addition to gays who should be concerned:

A. Interracial couples.  For many, the laws that deemed it a crime for blacks and whites to marry were grounded upon their religious beliefs.  For example, the trial judge in the famous case of Loving v. Virginia made that very point: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents… The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” And the Bible appears to support this very proposition. 

B. Women who try to tell men what to do.  The Bible states:

“…do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”  So ladies, if you start telling  your husband what to do while in an Arizona restaurant, you may find yourself sitting in the parking lot while he finishes his dinner in the establishment.

C. Jews, Muslims, atheists, Sikhs, and others.  The New Testament also tells Christians: “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

So what happens if a Jew or a Muslim brings up their religious beliefs in an Arizona restaurant? That could be considered preaching meaning you would be “accursed” – Translation:  Denied service. And God forbid an atheist comes in talking up the “War on Christmas.” No soup for you!

Now, I’m not suggesting that every conservative business owner will discriminate against gays, interracial couples, etc.  Some will no doubt being welcoming to all. But it is likely that some will turn away certain people.

Maybe there’s a middle ground that can be found. I’m just brainstorming here so don’t judge me, but maybe the owners who hate gays but want their money can have a special entrance and dedicated bathrooms marked, “Straights only” and another labeled “Gays.” Or they can put the gay and interracial couples in a closeted backroom area, sort of like the way the video storeowners hidXrated videos. But here’s what really should happen: Arizona’s Republican governor Jan Brewer should veto this bill when it comes to her desk in the next few days.  However, that’s not enough.  The Republican National Chair Reince Priebus and other GOP Leaders need to make it clear that their party will no longer tolerate discrimination against any American for any reason.

It’s truly time the GOP makes a choice:  Will they continue to be beholden to the extreme elements of their party? Or will they finally have the courage to stand up to the voices of intolerance and embrace the inclusivity that truly represents our nation today. What’s it going to be?