Raising Arizona - from the pit of bigotry

Though I swore off of anything political for this column from the very beginning of my current stint at the Glenville Democrat/Pathfinder, this week I need to make an exception.

Believe me, I have more than enough to say about still being in college at an age when most people are gearing up for the twilight of their careers. I'm plenty indignant that I have to deal with both wrinkles and acne these days. And I can't tell you how depressing it is that people I once held when they were babies and I was in college (the first time) are now in college or, worse, have graduated from college.

The truth is, something is happening in Arizona right now that troubles me and has turned my thoughts back more than 20 years.

When I was a charter member of the University of South Alabama's Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Alliance (circa 1991), the thought that one day homosexuals could be legally married anywhere was like science fiction - and not the believable kind of "Star Trek." More like L. Ron Hubbard.

And now here it is 2014, the Twenty-First Century. In many ways things have vastly improved. Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states. This is not even close to half the states in the nation, but on the surface it still seems like a good start.

Half the heterosexual couples in the country don't want to stay married once they take advantage of this right. So let's be honest: marriage equality laws are important, but not everyone wants to get married (or stay married, according to the rate of divorce in the US).

What most people don't want is to be discriminated against, for any reason at all. We think we've come so far in this country over the last 50 years regarding the way people are treated by the law, by the educational systems, by business owners, by individuals.

In Arizona, the state has passed a bill that is one signature - that of the governor, Jan Brewer (R) - from becoming a state law that allows for discrimination to go unchallenged. The bill, SB 1062, is basically a license for business owners to refuse service of any kind to a person and then wrap their discrimination in the cloak of "conscience."

If such a law is passed, it's not just gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people who might suffer discrimination. It's anyone against whom a religious person wants to stand his or her "moral ground." It's not difficult to imagine that a Religious Freedom act being pushed by conservative Christians will be interpreted much differently when the religious freedom needing protected, say, belongs to a Muslim, a Hindu, a Native American or a Jewish person.

Not surprisingly, many politicians, whether seeking re-election or otherwise, who once voted in favor of the bill have realized what a huge mistake it is and now want to backpedal. What is disturbing about this back-pedaling is that most of it highlights the "negative impact" such a law could have on the image of Arizona and - haha, yes, of course - on the business climate.

The governor of Arizona needs to veto this bill and set about encouraging the passage of real anti-discrimination laws throughout the state. If she does, we can only hope that other states will learn to say "NO!" to the bigots who want to hijack the rights and liberties of all citizens to accommodate a narrow-minded and wrong-headed minority.