Editorial: Outdated discriminatory laws lame, counterintuitive attempts to avoid embrace of widespread equality

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Arizona is now home to the latest legislative group attempting to thinly veil an effort to prevent the nation from fully reaching equality.

The Arizona legislature passed a bill last week that would give business owners and individuals the authority to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs. While Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill last night, its initial passing remains troubling.

The vetoed bill aimed to amend a previous law that allowed religious assemblies and institutions to shield themselves from lawsuits for denying service on the basis of their beliefs. The bill sought to widen the scope of protection to cover any individual association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or other business organization.

What seemed most controversial about this bill’s premise, apart from its undeniable motivation to marginalize the LGBTQ community, is the catastrophic jurisdictions the bill would have had on Arizona. If enacted, the bill would have had the ability to undermine the free expression of religion, the should-be right to freely express sexual preference and reverse the movement to achieve national equality for all minorities.

The intersection of these issues would emerge with the passing of the law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Advocacy and Policy Counsel Eunice Rho.

“The people who are supporting this law are very open about their intentions to use it against gay people. But it [additionally] undermines all sorts of civil rights laws in the state. The potential for discrimination is very broad,” Rho said.

Rho puts it best. Consider what this bill, if passed, would deem permissible. Suppose that a Navy officer’s car breaks down while he is traveling. Luckily, a motel is nearby, and he plans to stay there since it’s too late to fix anything. The motel, the only one in sight, is owned by a traditional religious pacifist. Would the supporters of this bill really deem it permissible for the officer to be banned from the motel and in turn, be shelterless?

If this example seems too rare, take for instance a same-sex couple who decides to eat at a restaurant whose owners are devout, conservative Catholics. All else equal, is it plausible for the restaurant owners to deny service to capable, willing customers based on the fact that they’re refusing service on the sole basis of a conflict of religious affiliation?

The examples of what could have been deemed legal under this potential law are innumerable. In light of the nation’s move to grant the LGBTQ community the necessary rights it deserves, this bill seems to protect those who use religion as a weapon to defend their stance on inequality. This bill, at its fundamental principle, is nothing but an attempt to masquerade the bill supporters’ discrimination as a protection of someone else’s rights.

This weak attempt to pass legislation is insulting to the nation’s social advancement and the moral credibility of those we elect to represent us. It’s time to seriously re-evaluate what our lawmakers spend their time on.

They must quit counteracting necessary social change; it’s a losing battle. 

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