Critique and illustration* by: Chris Talbot-Heindl
*Not actually said by Cathi Herrod, but an artist interpretation of her meaning.
In an appalling vote recently, Arizona State Legislators voted to “Turn Away the Gay.”
The Bill itself, HB 2153 and SB 1062, allows for businesses to refuse to provide service to LGBTIQ people based on an individual’s “sincerely held religious belief.” That would mean that if you were a gay couple (or a couple perceived to be gay) traveling in Arizona and you went to a hotel and the person behind the counter believed that your union (or perceived union) was a sin; they could refuse to house you.
The bill is not unlike the Jim Crow laws of the south – you know, the horrific discrimination laws of racial segregation that we now chide when we learn about the ignorance that spawned it in our history classes. Our country has already been through this debacle once before, and I believe at that time it was “Because Jesus” too.
And yet, Kansas and Arizona recently took up this legislation without batting an eye. It seems that the “religious” folks who wrote the bill forgot the main tenant of any religion is “don’t be an asshole to each other.”
The impetus behind the Arizona bill seems to be that some Christians believe they are being persecuted in some way because they are being “forced” to be decent human beings through anti-discrimination laws and they believe Christmas is under attack, presumably because Fox News told them so.
What these Christians have failed to realize is that they are in no way being bullied; they are the persecutors. They have long held a position of power and favor in this country. New laws have ensured that they can’t exert that power and oppression over protected members of the population (ie – those members who they have historically victimized). That does not equate to being oppressed. In order to be persecuted, they would need to be disenfranchised from every facet of society, institutionalized for believing in Jesus, and in some severe cases – beaten, jailed, raped, and killed for being Christian. You know, what LGBTIQ people have had to face at the hands of so-called Christians. Every single person has the right to practice his or her own religion. They are just not allowed to infringe upon the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of others to do so. If you want to be a bigot – do it in your own space.
The backlash to this bill has been great, which for me is a silver lining – as more people are paying attention and reacting to the discrimination that LGBTIQ people face on the daily. Thanks in no small way to George Takei, who has used his notoriety to spread the word, and has amassed a huge following on social media.
His reaction to this has been swift and amazing. He says, in an open letter to Arizona, “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… The law is breathtaking in its scope. It gives bigotry against us gays and lesbians a powerful and unprecedented weapon. But your mean-spirited representatives and senators know this. They also know that it is going to be struck down eventually by the courts. But they passed it anyway, just to make their hateful opinion of us crystal clear.” On his blog, he goes on to suggest that if Jan Brewer does sign the law into effect, “we will urge everyone we know – from large corporations to small families on vacation – to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars.”
The Greater Phoenix Economic Council knows what this will mean for them already. In a letter to Brewer on Friday, they urged for a veto saying that the effects will mean bad business for years to come.
So, who even wants this bill? Well, it was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a “non-profit” that opposes abortion and marriage equality. On their website, they make ludicrous statements that they “witness hostility towards people of faith grow like never before, we must take this opportunity to speak up for religious liberty.” But guess what, Center for Arizona Policy? The hostility isn’t toward people of faith – it is toward assholes, and no law will change that.
In an ironic turn of events, the Center’s President surname is Herrod. So, while the Republicans in the House and Senate may be reenacting the days of Jim Crow, it seems Cathi Herrod may be staging homage to her namesake in ordering the crucifixion of Jesus’ message.
And so, I guess now we wait to see if common sense will prevail or if there will be a boycott of Arizona in my future.