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Tue, Feb. 18

Column: Senate Bill 1062 was not about gays

Last Thursday, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the so-called religious freedom bill, Senate Bill 1062. Earlier in the week, The Daily Courier came out against the bill in an editorial. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were urging Brewer to veto the bill. So was Apple Inc. spokeswoman Kristin Huege and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.

The president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Glenn Hamer, stated that this bill would be bad for business. The NFL threatened to pull future Super Bowls from Arizona. Hundreds of gays and friends marched on the state capitol a week ago Monday.

This was the very embodiment of the metaphor of the tempest in the teapot. First, Arizona businesses can virtually refuse anyone service now under the law without stating a reason. Some of our legislators felt that there was a need to amend a 1999 law that they felt left religious business owners unprotected from frivolous lawsuits if they refused to do business in a situation that they felt compromised their beliefs.

The media coverage started in full when the left's shock troops in the culture war started their bellicose attack to persuade the governor to veto SB1062. Political correctness was running rampant. There were claims that gays' civil rights would be violated by religious zealots with impunity if this bill was signed into law. Other assertions were that the law would subject Arizona gays to modern day Jim Crow status. There was more horse manure spread about this law than General Sherman left on his march to the sea.

SB1062 was most probably provoked by lawsuits in other states, where business owners with religious scruples were sued when they refused to provide goods or services for gay weddings. Nowhere in the bill are gays even mentioned.

That's because this bill was not about gays or gay rights; it was about religious freedom. That freedom is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is referred to as the Liberty of Conscience in the Arizona Constitution.

If a person's religious belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman only, why should that person be forced to provide a product or a service for a ceremony that is the opposite of that belief? Why should they be subject to a lawsuit? From the other perspective, why would one want to give his or her money to someone who is opposed to the lifestyle to be celebrated? Why would anyone want to eat a cake reluctantly baked by someone who is opposed to their lifestyle? Wouldn't most people prefer to give their money and their business to people and enterprises that want and seek their commerce?

The free market would handle this dispute much better than any governmental or judicial intervention. If gays were offended by the rejection of their business, they could let their friends and family members know. The business would lose a percentage of their clients. They would make less money. They might think that is the cost of living up to their religious beliefs. They might go out of business. They might get more customers if there is a religious backlash. They might change their policies.

At any rate, gays or other offended groups would not have to give their money to companies that are opposed to the lifestyle or ceremonies in which they want to engage.

Of course, gays aren't the only ones who could have been affected by this bill. Polygamists or Muslims might want cakes with one man and three women on them. But if you include all of those who might, even tangentially, be impacted by this bill, it would only be a small fraction of one percent.

Could it be that the reason for this major flap is not the protection of gays or gay rights, but retaliation against those who have opposing views? Are there not other businesses that could bake cakes, take photos or sell flowers and want the gays as customers? Almost certainly, one would think that the majority of any group would rather give their dollars and patronage to those who want it.

Only the most activist radicals in any group would want to crush those with opposing views, by requiring them to create a product or service against their beliefs, or suffer the threat and expense of a lawsuit. Those who engage in that type of activity are not seeking to protect any perceived right or redress any injury. They are seeking revenge.

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