On February 21, the day Arizona passed a bill legally excusing anyone from anti-discrimination ordinances if there is a conflict between the law and their “religious mission,” hundreds of LGBT activists came out in protest.
SB 1062, titled the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” allows the refusal of service to anyone if doing otherwise would violate a “sincerely held religious belief.”
Hundreds of pro-equality activists gathered in front of the state Capitol building in Phoenix; another protest rally was held in Tucson. Activists carried signs reading “love thy neighbor as thyself” and “NO religion should be for DISCRIMINATION.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement, “This bill is bad for business, bad for the LGBT community and bad for all Arizonans…When providing a service to the public, a business owner shouldn’t pick and choose who they want to provide a service to and who they want to deny. Instead of protecting religious liberty, this bill gives license for discrimination to run rampant across the state.”
Celebrity LGBT activist George Takei responded to the bill’s passing by writing an open letter to the state’s legislators, published on the website for his musical “Allegiance.”
The letter reads in part,
Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses–even those open to the public–to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s “sincerely held religious belief.” […] You’re willing to ostracize and marginalize LGBT people to score political points with the extreme right of the Republican Party. You say this bill protects “religious freedom,” but no one is fooled. When I was younger, people used “God’s Will” as a reason to keep the races separate, too. Make no mistake, this is the new segregation, yours is a Jim Crow law, and you are about to make yourself ground zero.
[…] If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake. We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know–from large corporations to small families on vacation–to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.
And maybe you just never learn. In 1989, you voted down recognition of the Martin Luther King holiday, and as a result, conventions and tourists boycotted the state, and the NFL moved the Superbowl to Pasadena. That was a $500 million mistake.
So if our appeals to equality, fairness, and our basic right to live in a civil society without doors being slammed in our face for being who we are don’t move you, I’ll bet a big hit to your pocketbook and state coffers will.
The bill is still waiting for Governor Jan Brewer, a Tea Party Republican, to decide whether to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law through inaction; she has not indicated if she has an intended course of action.