Photo by Benson Kua via Wikimedia
Jennipher Schafer/Staff Writer
Recently, in Arizona, a controversial law nearly made it legal to discriminate against people who are LGBTQ. The law would have made it legal to deny services to LGBTQ people based on the religious beliefs of the store owner.
Essentially, this awards the company personhood and thus the same right to religious freedom as a person. It just dictates that the company must then have the same faith as the owner. So what exactly does the veto of the law by Arizona governor Jan Brewer mean nationwide? Why should it matter here in Florida?
To understand why this is such a big deal, we have to understand where it came from. “Advocates claim that the bill protects the freedom of religion by allowing individuals to conduct their business in accordance with their personal beliefs.
It would shield business owners from any potential lawsuits from individuals claiming they were discriminated against if the business owner can demonstrate a sincere religious belief,” according to a late February article in the Guardian by Christopher Spencer.
The reality of the law is not so simple. In fact, according to Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch, “Arizona’s legislature has reached a new low by awarding special legal protection to businesses and individuals that discriminate against LGBT people.”
The Human Rights Watch interviewed Reid about the law to gain insight to the real threat behind it. Further investigation into the law by the Guardian showed a purposeful skew in the use of language of the bill which was directly targeting the LGBT community.
Had the bill not been vetoed, fifty years of civil rights protections could have been undone as Reid pointed out. This law would have been the first of its kind. It would have been a free pass to discriminate to the LGBTQ community.
The fact that it took a veto to prevent a state from legalizing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is a frightening one. If such a law were to pass in just one state, the potential would exist for other states to follow suit, creating a domino effect which could destroy all the efforts and past accomplishments toward equality.
Furthermore, the law was so ambiguous that it had the potential to allow discrimination based on other things including divorced status, conflicting religion, etc. These are all very good reasons to be concerned and observant.
If even one group of people is legally discriminated against, we are all at risk of the same. We cannot allow any of our brothers, sisters or anyone in between to be oppressed or denied for things they can’t help. It’s simply deplorable that in this day and age people still think it is alright to discriminate.
No, the civil rights movement is far from over. We’ve done a lot, but we still have a long way to go before all people are protected and truly free to be called equal.