Ross D. Franklin / The Associated Press

Jo Beaudry holds up a sign at a rally at the Arizona Capitol on Friday protesting a bill that would allow business owners to refuse to serve gay patrons by citing their religious beliefs.

Editorial: Arizona goes too far with pro-discrimination legislation

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 - 12:15 am
Last Modified: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 - 5:48 am

Once again, California’s kooky next-door neighbor has cooked up an astonishing bit of legislative bigotry.

With Senate Bill 1062, passed by both houses of the Arizona Legislature last week, however, the state’s lawmakers may have gone too far. Even Jan Brewer, the tea party hero governor of the Grand Canyon State, appears to be leaning toward a veto after pressure from sources as widely spread as Apple and prominent members of her own party, according to an aide.

SB 1062 purports to be about protecting religious freedom, but what it really seems to do is to provide legal cover for discrimination by individuals, groups and even corporations that refuse to serve or hire or rent to or even interact with people if doing so interferes with their religious beliefs. It has been particularly worrisome to the gay community, which sees this as the sanctioning of anti-gay discrimination.

The backlash against the bill has been immediate and intense, and has come not just from the usual liberal suspects and gay activists. Some Arizona Republicans, including and especially U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, urge a veto. So has the state’s business community, legitimately worried about what another boycott might do to tourism or even next year’s Super Bowl, which is planned for the University of Phoenix Stadium. Even three Republican state senators who voted on the bill, which otherwise mostly split down party lines, changed their minds about it Monday, saying they regret voting for the rushed bill.

No doubt. As terrible as the various anti-immigration bills Arizona has passed in recent years were, they were not as unabashedly unconstitutional as this bill. Maybe this will be a lesson for Arizona’s legislators to consider the consequences before they blindly follow the ultraconservatives on a vote for intolerance.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board

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