Anthony Musa, left, and Brianna Pantillione join nearly 250 gay rights supporters protesting SB1062 at the Arizona Capitol on Feb. 21, 2014, in Phoenix.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

Welcoming an ugly, divisive fight

Following up on Rachel’s report last night, we don’t yet know for certain whether Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) will veto the proposed right-to-discriminate bill, but by all appearances, a veto appears quite likely. Opposition to the measure, SB1062, has become overwhelming – even Republican voters in the state are against it – and the governor seems all too aware of the adverse consequences if she signs the measure into law.
But while we wait, perhaps the most surprising aspect of this fight is that other conservative state policymakers elsewhere are watching the divisive fiasco unfold and they’re apparently thinking to themselves, “Let’s bring that ugliness here!”
Arizona’s legislature was the first to pass a right-to-discriminate bill, but it was hardly the first to consider one. Over the last couple of months, similar measures were debated in Kansas, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but in each case, the proposals were either defeated or delayed.
There are still some GOP state lawmakers, however, who are eager to bring the controversy, scorn, and threat of boycotts to their state, on purpose. Adam Serwer reported on the latest developments in Georgia.
Georgia is the latest state to consider legislation that could sanction discrimination in the name of religious freedom.
There are two versions of the Georgia bill – a state House version, HB 1023, and a state Senate version, SB 377. Both would affirm the “right to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious tenet or belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or a central part or requirement of the person’s religious tenets or beliefs.”
The bill, Adam added, is “moving rapidly through the Georgia legislature.”
At the same time, a Republican state senator in Missouri is watching this acrimonious fight unfold elsewhere, and announced yesterday he wants the same debate in his state, too.
What kind of elected official sees a contentious argument over a problem that doesn’t exist and chooses to deliberately impose that fight on his or her state?
What’s more, as Rachel noted on the show, while similar bills have already failed, the right-to-discriminate campaign is very much ongoing in a wide variety of states.
“In Ohio, a bill like this has also been introduced there in the House. In Nevada, a bill like this is making its way through a committee. Same story in Idaho, where a Republican bill has been moved back to committee.
Republicans in Oklahoma have proposed a bill like this. Republicans in Hawaii have proposed a bill like this. Republicans in Mississippi have already passed a bill like this through the state senate and it’s now on the way to the Mississippi House. Republicans in Utah are trying to pass this measure as an amendment. Republicans in Oregon are trying to get it on to the ballot.”
Remember, these fights are on top of the debates underway in Arizona, Georgia, and Missouri.
By my count, there are now 15 states – nearly a third of the country – where Republican state lawmakers have at least proposed a right-to-discriminate measure.
For all the talk about the GOP moving away from divisive culture-war fights in an election year, it would appear these state officials haven’t gotten the memo.
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