Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A few Arizona Republicans sort of change their minds over anti-gay bill

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, sort of:

Three Republican senators who voted for Senate Bill 1062 say they made a bad decision in a rushed process and are now asking Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the right to refuse service bill.

"We feel it was a solution in search of a problem," Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, said in an impromptu news conference outside the state Senate. He was joined by Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott.

The two, along with Senate Majority Whip Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, sent Brewer a letter Monday morning asking for a veto.

"While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance," the three wrote. "These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm."

Pierce and Worsley said the bill was moved along very quickly, not giving them enough time to convince fellow lawmakers to vote against it. Besides, Pierce said, they didn't want to "tear apart" the GOP caucus, which was sharply divided last year over Brewer's push for Medicaid expansion.

But the reaction from constituents to the business community reinforced their discomfort with their "yes" votes, they said, leading to the call for a veto.

It's great that these three legislators are now against the bill, and maybe this high-profile turnaround will influence the governor's decision in a good way to veto the damn thing, but do you see what's going on here?

Worsley, Pierce, and Driggs aren't necessarily against the spirit of the bill, against what they see as its intent. They just wanted to protect religious freedom; it's the bill's opponents who are mistake, who just don't get it, because it's not about intolerance at all. They're worried that the bill's opponents are now making the state look bad; it's the bill's opponents who are causing "immeasurable harm." And they're concerned that their party could be harmed by this kerfuffle. Oh, and their constituents, both individuals and businesses, the latter of which drives Republican thinking, have spoken up against it, and of course they have their political careers to think about.

To which I say: bullshit. This bill is bigotry pure and simple, and while, yes, some may have rushed to support the bill because they hadn't quite thought it through yet, the fact is that Republicans in the state have by and large supported an effort to enact a new Jim Crow law targeting gays and lesbians, to authorize discrimination and segregation in the name of some perverted view of religion freedom, and of course for the sake of religious bigotry.

The key now is to stop the bill, and if a few Republicans finding excuses for themselves helps, well, fine. But don't think for a second that these Republicans, or Arizona Republicans generally, have had a genuine change of mind, and change of heart, when it comes not just to gay rights but to the equal rights of citizens generally. They remain bigots still, however much they may try to spin it otherwise.

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