Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mississippi burning? Arizona SB 1062 redux

Arizona dodged an economic and political bullet in 2014 when then Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062. She did so over the objections of the bill's supporters, notably Cathi Herrod of the Center for (Reactionary) Arizona Policy (aka CRAP). Here's is some of the CNN report at the time.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed businesses that asserted their religious beliefs the right to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.

... the governor said she made the decision she knew was right for Arizona.

"I call them as I see them, despite the cheers or the boos from the crowd," Brewer said, criticizing what she described as a "broadly worded" bill that "could result in unintended and negative consequences."

Brewer said she'd weighed the arguments on both sides before vetoing the measure, which is known as SB 1062.

"To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes," she said. "However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.

Did Cathi Herrod accept Brewer's reasoning? Of course not. Herrod would rather burn down Arizona than to accept religious and cultural tolerance.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, accused opponents of the measure of distorting facts.

One of the important factors in Brewer's decision was the public opposition to SB 1062 by many businesses.

In addition to gay rights organizations, many businesses sharply criticized the measure, saying it would be bad for Arizona's economy and could lead to discrimination lawsuits, boycotts and other disruptions.

Large businesses including Apple, American Airlines, AT&T and Intel voiced opposition to the measure, and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expressed concerns.

And so it was that Brewer listened to those businesses and avoided burning Arizona.

Mississippi, however, has chosen a different path, preferring to keep burning than to foster tolerance.

Leonard Pitts Jr. tells the story of Mississippi's version of SB 1062.

It has a lower percentage of high school graduates than almost any other state. It has an unemployment rate higher than almost any other state.

Mississippi’s fourth-graders perform more poorly than any other children in the country in math. Also in reading. Its smoking rates are among the highest in the country. Along with West Virginia, it is the fattest state in the Union. It has the highest poverty rate and the lowest life expectancy.

Small wonder 24/7 Wall Street, a content provider for Yahoo!, Time and USA Today, among others, has dubbed Mississippi the “worst state to live in.”

All of which provides a certain pungent context for what happened last week as Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a bill legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. It is dubbed the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” which is a cynical lie. The only thing it protects is those doing the discriminating.

Indeed, it says that any gay, transgendered or adulterous individual whose behavior offends the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of a person, for-profit business, government employee or religious organization can be refused service.

As if your sexual orientation or marital status were the business of the cashier ringing up your groceries or the barber trimming your hair.

So the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union rails against LGBT people and adulterers, and never mind that if every last one of them pulled up stakes tomorrow, Mississippi would still be the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union.

... Mississippi just passed a law that 80 percent of its eighth-graders would struggle to read.

If they graduate, those young people will look for work in a state with an unemployment rate significantly higher than the national average. But if one of those kids does manage to find work at the local doughnut shop, say, she will — until the law is struck down, at least — have the satisfaction of refusing service to some gay man, secure in the knowledge that the state that failed to educate her or give her a fighting chance in a complex world, now has her back.

One feels sorrier for her than for the gay man. Her life will be hemmed by the fact of living it in a state that fights the future, that teaches her to deflect and distract, not resolve and engage.

The gay man can buy doughnuts anywhere.

Back to our own version of Mississippi's law - SB 1062, the bill that Brewer vetoed. From CNN:

The controversial measure faced a surge of opposition in recent days from large corporations and athletic organizations, including Delta Air Lines, the Super Bowl host committee and Major League Baseball.

And consider the contrast from Pitts about the leverage businesses have against these kinds of discriminatory laws. In order for the leverage by by businesses to work you have to have the businesses and, sadly, Mississippi does not.

It is worth nothing that similar laws have been propounded in other states — Georgia, Indiana, Arkansas — only to be turned back under threat of boycott by Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams doing business there. “The worst state to live in,” was immune to that kind of pressure because it has no such teams or businesses.

Apparently Mississippians are content with that status quo: poorest, sickest, and least educated of all the states.

Fortunately, Arizona is not there. But the religious right-wing jihadists rarely give up. So I need to add one more word to my conclusion. Arizona is not there ... yet.

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