By Doug Porter
A 33-27 vote in the Arizona House last night sent legislation to GOP Gov. Jan Brewer allowing business owners in the state to assert their religious beliefs to refuse service to persons who they believe to be homosexual. The state that brought us openly racist anti-immigrant laws four years ago has once again taken the lead in defending bigotry.
Conservative Christian groups and their Republican allies are desperate to stop the clock. The handwriting is on the wall. Sexual orientation as a criteria for full participation in society is on its way out. In state after state, the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are chipping way at policies that enforce discrimination based on who you love.
Lest you think this Arizona legislation is an aberration caused by too much time in the sun, be aware that even more heinous legislation was promoted by GOP pols in Kansas, Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Furious public opposition has stalled those efforts for now, but there’s always next year.
Here’s Mark Joseph Stern, describing the Kansas bill at Slate.com:
…the new law will allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Private employers can continue to fire gay employees on account of their sexuality. Stores may deny gay couples goods and services because they are gay. Hotels can eject gay couples or deny them entry in the first place. Businesses that provide public accommodations—movie theaters, restaurants—can turn away gay couples at the door. And if a gay couple sues for discrimination, they won’t just lose; they’ll be forced to pay their opponent’s attorney’s fees. As I’ve noted before, anti-gay businesses might as well put out signs alerting gay people that their business isn’t welcome.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to barring all anti-discrimination lawsuits against private employers, the new law permits government employees to deny service to gays in the name of “religious liberty.”
This legislation is a direct response to the growing marriage equality movement. Marriage is legal for same-sex couples in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and federal courts have struck down marriage bans in Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia in recent months. The Attorneys General of six states have announced they won’t defend bans on same-sex marriage because they violate the federal or state constitution.
A network of conservative religious groups working through GOP lawmakers is pushing similar bills around the country, essentially forging a national campaign legalizing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
These bills are all packaged as “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) or amendments to similarly named legislation passed two decades ago that have been largely invalidated by the courts. The premise is always the same: the mere existence of same sex marriage (and sometimes just gays) is an affront to the freedoms of people subscribing to fundamentalist Christian beliefs. In other words, Jesus tells them it’s okay to discriminate.
From Mother Jones:
The RFRAs and the bills that target same-sex marriage have been pushed by Republican lawmakers, but in some cases, they were first promoted or drafted by a network of conservative Christian groups.
According to the Wichita Eagle, the American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP)—which is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative organization founded in 1976—crafted the language for the Kansas bill. Brian Walsh, executive director of the ARFP, which supports religious freedom measures, acknowledges that his group consulted with the legislators on the bill, but he says that lots of other groups did as well: “We gave them suggestions and they took some of them.” Walsh says that ARFP was contacted by legislators who wrote the Tennessee bill and that the group frequently talked to legislators in South Dakota about “religious freedom” but not the state’s specific bill.
Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council in Idaho, one of many state groups that are part of Citizen Link, a branch of Focus on the Family, told Al Jazeera America, “We’ve been involved in working on the language” of the Idaho bill. Another member of Citizen Link, the Arizona Policy Center, has been active in supporting the Arizona bill. And the Oregon ballot initiative was proposed by Friends of Religious Freedom, a conservative Oregon nonprofit.
Gov.Jan Brewer hasn’t said whether or not she’ll sign the bill passed by the Arizona legislature. It’s my bet that she won’t. (I was wrong once before.) But the point will have been made. Some people think they are more equal than others.
Here’s Bryan Fischer, leader with the American Family Association and talk radio host:
Rights based on sexual deviancy are Jim Crow laws against Christians. Lead to segregation, illegal religious discrimination.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanJFischer) February 19, 2014
San Diego Scandal Watch #1: Breaking News
Police Chief William Lansdowne abruptly cancelled all media appearances for today.
Via Heather Myers at San Diego 6 News:
Chief Lansdowne with the #SDPD was supposed to be on our show at 6:45 but has canceled all interviews. No word why. @SanDiego6
— Heather Myers (@HeatherMyersSD6) February 21, 2014
An affidavit filed as part of the “Jane Doe” lawsuit against the City of San Diego and the SDPD sheds a little light on just how deep and wide the culture of misogyny is in our local police department. The plaintiff in this case is demanding an outside monitor to oversee the police department. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has waged a ceaseless campaign in the news media to depict her as a gold digger in response to continuing revelations regarding attempts by his office to discredit the sexual assault victim.
In what is becoming a growing sex scandal within the San Diego Police Department, a woman is now claiming that back in 2002 a police supervisor sexually harassed her in front of a trainee.
The woman said the incident happened during a traffic stop in the Gaslamp District. She said she has been scared to tell her story for more than a decade.
The woman, identified only by her initials, ‘D.B.’, claims the police supervisor sexually harassed her and offered to have sex with her. She said in exchange, the supervisor told her she could go free.
The identity of the latest San Diego police officer accused of sexual misconduct was released by San Diego Police Officer Association.
SDPOA confirmed Thursday that Donald Moncrief, 39, was the officer accused of exposing himself to a woman while in his custody.
San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne announced the allegations against the six-year veteran and suspended him from duties with the department pending the outcome of the case.
Here’s a handy-dandy timeline of the police sexual misconduct scandal created by NBC7News.
San Diego Scandal Watch #2: About That SDPD Audit Thing…
Police Chief William Lansdowne has promised an audit once before when faced with a scandal in the SDPD, and UT-San Diego’s Ricky Young says that pledge wasn’t fulfilled. Back in March, 2012, SDPD officer Kevin Friedman was accused of “disappearing” seat-belt violations issued to two county prosecutors.
As far as I could tell, this story has not appeared in a print edition of UT-San Diego:
If the department’s follow through on the ticket-fixing audit is any indication, the final product might not be all that was promised in the heat of the moment. U-T Watchdog sought a copy of the ticket audit for weeks, and was finally told there was no such document in November 2012.
Brown said, “We conducted an informal review of the manner in which citations were stored, filed and tracked. We reviewed the appropriate department procedures for compliance and adequacy. We also looked at how citations are maintained at the various area stations.”
The department made no effort to determine whether other tickets had been fixed, as was originally suggested, instead suggesting citizens would have to report such things on a case by case basis.
Back in May, 2011, following revelations about nine or so officers under investigation for misconduct or criminal offenses, Lansdowne promised a seven point plan to to reduce misconduct.
This time around, the SDPD Chief is promising an “outside” audit. And he gets to pick the organizations to be considered to be the auditor. I’m sure that will be fair….
San Diego Scandal Watch #3: Mexican Moneyman Charged
Yesterday Jose Susumo Azano pled not guilty on charges relating to being a foreign national who provided campaign contributions. The indictment alleges Azano provided money to various San Diego politicians over the past two years. FBI officials told the local press that Azano was arrested without incident Wednesday at his Coronado home.
The prosecutor alleged Azano was at the center of a large scale fraud, possibly one of the biggest in San Diego County history, if not the country, and argued that Azano’s alleged actions were a threat to the political election system in the United States.
The prosecutor said witnesses told authorities that Azano referred to his ability to have people killed, and a loaded gun was found last month in a search of Azano’s home.
But defense attorney Knut Johnson said Azano wouldn’t abandon his family — who are U.S. citizens — and would stay in San Diego to fight the charges.
[Judge] Dembin allowed Azano to post a $5 million bond, to be secured by the equity in one of his two homes in Coronado. He must also wear GPS monitoring as he would be confined to his home.
Tomorrow’s Scandal Today
We’re about to see how Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer will gut the idea of fighting climate change at the local level. At issue are whether or not energy efficiency upgrades to properties should be be made mandatory as part of any sale or rehab.
Voluntary measures included in plans by San Diego County and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) have been rejected by Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor for failing to demonstrate how they’ll meet state-mandated greenhouse gas reductions.
Via Voice of San Diego:
In his short window as interim mayor, Todd Gloria rushed to put together an aggressive climate change plan for the city.
But the local business community is already coming out against pieces of it, and the impending arrival of Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer, who’s sided with business groups in several recent fights over city policies, means their concerns are likely to take center stage as the plan moves forward.
Gloria’s plan would cut greenhouse gases in the city by 15 percent by 2020 and 49 percent by 2035. Those targets come from a collection of state requirements forcing cities to face their role in climate change.
But the plan — which calls out five focus areas to cut emissions but also includes binding laws to make that happen — is at least eight months from a City Council vote, once it finishes the California Environmental Quality Act’s lengthy review process, set to begin next month.
Martinez to Run in Escondido Council Race
Activist Consuelo Martinez, known for her work to register and encourage voters in Escondido, announced yesterday that she will be seeking election to the City Council in the newly drawn District 1 in that city. Voting districts in Escondido was instituted as part of a civil right lawsuit charging that Latinos were being denied representation in the old city-system.
Martinez is challenging incumbent Council member Ed Gallo, who won his last election city-wide in 2010 by just 47 votes, narrowly defeating former Mayor Lori Holt-Pfeiler. The election is November 4, 2014.
Escondido Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz, the first Latina elected to the Council, and Oceanside Council member Esther Sanchez were on hand to support Martinez’s announcement.
On This Day: 1947 – Edwin Land demonstrated the Polaroid Land Camera to the Optical Society of America in New York City. It was the first camera to take, develop and print a picture on photo paper all in about 60 seconds. The photos were black and white. The camera went on sale the following year. 1958 – The first Flying V, by Gibson, was shipped from a factory in Kalamazoo, MI. 1965 – Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City at the age of 39 by assassins identified as Black Muslims.
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Anna Daniels says
The same religious “liberty” argument is also being used to deny women’s health services and insurance coverage. On to the Supreme Court.
bob dorn says
Best bumper sticker I saw in 2013; A sunburst in the colors of the Arizona
state flag and, “Yeah, but it’s a dry hate.”
As an independent businessperson who is basically my own boss, I’ve always believed that life is too short to do business with anyone who I don’t like. I have declined jobs where I would have had to work with someone who I wouldn’t enjoy working with. And I firmly believe that any independent businessperson or consultant should have that same right.
On the other hand, of course, no one should be refused service in a shop, hotel or restaurant because they are gay… or black or Jewish.
The start of this bill in Arizona was a photographer who refused to shoot a gay couple’s wedding. They sued him for discrimination. But, what if the photog was just reacting to a demanding ‘bridezilla’? Or TWO nasty people? Of course, the details of that specific case will come out.
But, how do we balance the reasonable needs of the two sides and still prevent bigotry?
Doug Porter says
The photographer in question was in New Mexico.
There are thorny issues on both sides of this particular issue: free speech vs the fact that when you open your doors to serve the public it means all the public. There was no bridezilla issue here, according to this story in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/us/weighing-free-speech-in-refusal-to-photograph-ceremony.html?_r=0
The case is still making its way through the courts.
The individuals screaming religious freedom and sponsoring these bills are proven bigots in the vast majority of cases, plain and simple. These bills will be thrown out by the courts and their backers know that–they’re just using the legislative process as a platform to spread their hate.
Sorry I had the case incorrect and thanks for the link :-)
I still think there are valid reasons to refuse a job, or to serve someone in a brick-and-morter business. But I agree that the boobs promoting these bills are nothing but bigots.
bob dorn says
Don’t forget that when states pass laws singling out certain lawful
behaviors as grounds for exclusion the civil rights laws are forced
into the picture. What’s the diff between charging gays higher
interest on their home loans and demanding African Americans
pay higher interest? Blacks and jews used to be excluded,
lawfully, from certain posh housing developments here, and
elsewhere in the country. It was, back then, a matter of state’s
rights claimed by the guys with cone-shaped white hats riding
horses and carrying flaming torches.
The monster-weirdos of Arizona may appeal to your views on
state’s rights and individual freedoms but people have to realize
that laws are to protect people, not destroy them. Wingnuts
have always used state’s rights to impose limits on people’s
freedom to secure safe abortions, for example, and then
praised themselves for protecting freedom.
John Lawrence says
According to the Climate Action Plan, the city of San Diego is mandated to eliminate plastic shopping bags this year – 2014. I guess they’ll wait until the last minute to do it. Hey, what’s the rush.
Judy Swink says
The good news here, in Kansas, is that the Senate killed the anti-gay bill passed by the House. Also, Kansas Governor Brownback is trailing his Democratic opponent by 4 pts according to another article. Guess they decided they couldn’t afford (at this time) to alienate more Kansas voters by passing that bill.
Brian Brady says
I just want to point out the headline is misleading. Jim Crow laws were state-sponsored segregation. The Arizona bill lets free people make their own choices about commerce.
I’ve lived in Phoenix and in the private sector, you’d be hard pressed to find a more tolerant society.
Doug Porter says
I see. It’s just a “coincidence” that all these state legislatures managed to take up these bills at the same time.
bob dorn says
Brian, the difference between mandatory segregation and permitted
segregation is a matter of degree, not impact, and at any rate you’re ignoring the argument that defeats yours; that is, that permitted exclusion denies a person
the same rights as others enjoy. I think, inasmuch as you’re a fervent Libertarian,
you ought to be concerned with equality before the law.
Brent E. Beltrán says
More tolerant? Yeah, right. Ask anybody of Mexican descent if Arizona is more tolerant. Ask the children of the TUSD if Arizona is more tolerant. Ask any of Sheriff Arpaio’s victims if Arizona is more tolerant. Your definition of tolerant seems to not tolerate my definition.
Brian Brady says
I made a distinction between the private and political sector. I think you’d have to live there to understand what I mean.
Brian Brady says
I support the right of a gay restaurant owner to deny the Weatboro Baptist Church’s request to rent a private room in the restaurant. I also support the right of a black bar owner to refuse service to a bunch of neo-Nazis. I really don’t want to take away property rights from people
bob dorn says
Libertarians just fake their beliefs, Brady. You argue in support of the the state of Arizona in its attempt to codify law that permits the exclusion of individuals from commerce. You might want to open your Ayn Rand bar and refuse to rent a back room out to people with broken noses, but you don’t need a law to do it, do you?
Brian Brady says
Just to be clear, are you accusing me of being a racist, a bigot, or a libertarian?
bob dorn says
I’m accusing you of being a fake, not a bigot or racist. As a Libertarian, you argue for a law that codifies the exclusion of individuals from business establishments. If it stands, that law will possibly come in handy to anyone who’d refuse to sell you a glass of water if you were dying of thirst.
And anyone who argues that Arizona is a tolerant state must not just be a Libertarian; they’ve gotta be nuts. I know, I escaped the place when I was 18.
Brian Brady says
Okay, that’s a fair enough explanation. I’m arguing that people have a right to associate with whomever they choose be it a romantic , interpersonal, or commercial relationship. Naturally, as freedom expands, thirsty people will have plenty of options for that drink of water.
My experience in Arizona had to be much different than yours but I had some perspective; I moved there from a state where all sorts of laws encouraged its people to consider and treat one another like members of a “group” or “class”. The Arizona people seemed to welcome any individual as long as he/she minded their own business.
What that taught me is this; people are going to be who they are unless society rather than the legislature changes them. Stated differently, I’ll be the guy who tells the bigoted baker (and my neighbors) that he’s cuckoo while others are searching for a complaint form from the local apparatchiks. That’s how fake I am, Bob.
bob dorn says
How fake are you?
Anna Daniels says
Arizona is discriminating against a whole class of people. Nobody forced them to do that. So much for “The Arizona people seemed to welcome any individual as long as he/she minded their own business.”