Arizona victory advances LGBTQ rights momentum
It has been a striking few weeks for LGBTQ rights both nationwide and internationally. Texas overturned its ban on same-sex marriage, Kentucky was ordered to recognize out-of-state marriages, and Arizona vetoed controversial SB 1062 — a law which would have allowed businesses to deny services to LGBTQ individuals on the basis of “religious liberty.”
Evidently, the United States LGBTQ movement has been gaining momentum. Since the Supreme Court appealed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June, no state has dared oppose the precedent set by United States v. Windsor. In the last three months alone, state judges in Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia have stepped away from same-sex marriage bans and brought their respective states one step closer to full marriage equality. The attorney generals of Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Oregon have stopped defending their states’ bans, and as many as 26 states have similar cases against bans pending, according to USA Today.
It seems that Windsor pushed the tides, turning hyperspeed in favor of LGBTQ rights. Disregarding certain conservative strongholds in the South — though Texas and Kentucky were a pleasant surprise — any state bringing marriage equality to court in the current political climate would be hard-pressed both legally and socially to stem the flow of progress.
Additionally, economics has been playing an increasingly important role in bolstering LGBTQ interests. This is evidenced by the recent trend in conservative politics of proposing legislation — meant to protect religious liberty — that permits, if not encourages, discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Economically, such legislation was bound to fail. In the days before she vetoed SB 1062, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was barraged with messages from local businesses and major national companies alike, warning her that legalizing discrimination would be a fatal blow to the state’s economic growth, according to MSNBC. With a majority of Americans in favor of marriage equality, companies that align themselves with hateful policies risk losing a vital proportion of their consumer base. Corporate America is proclaiming support for the LGBTQ community louder than ever before simply because they cannot afford to behave otherwise.
Moreover, SB 1062 and its imitators have a weak legal standing. Even if it had passed in Arizona, the bill almost certainly would have been challenged in federal court. The Supreme Court has historically abided by the principle that any one person’s religious freedom should be protected so long as it does not infringe on the freedoms of anyone else. Religious liberty cannot legally excuse racial or gender discrimination, and the same standard should transfer naturally to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
It is true and terrible irony that conservatives have been playing the persecution card to justify infringing on the rights of LGBTQ individuals. In one illuminating interview, Anderson Cooper grilled Senator Al Melvin (R–Ariz.), who was in support of the bill. The senator theorized vaguely and warned of oncoming injustice, but — when pressed — failed to cite one concrete example of a religious person being discriminated against for exercising his or her beliefs in Arizona.
Meanwhile, LGBTQ individuals hardly have to struggle for evidence of infringement against their basic rights as American citizens. Comparing the struggles of the LGBTQ community to the supposed persecution of the religious is no comparison at all.
In the end, SB 1062 and similar measures are nothing more than conservatives whining over having to treat everyone with decency. These laws represent an increasingly desperate effort by bigots to stand their ground on the wrong side of history.
Arizona serves as evidence that the majority will not tolerate discrimination, thereby weakening the excuses of conservatives and furthering the progress of the LGBTQ movement.