(Photo: Jan Brewer vetoing SB 1062, via her Twitter feed.)
Last night, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer did the right thing and vetoed SB 1062, a bill that would've allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBT consumers. It was a ridiculous law for many reasons including the fact that there aren't any laws banning discrimination against LGBTs in Arizona in the first place. Then again, there aren't any laws permitted it either, but this law would've codified Jim Crow style bigotry in a state that already has a spotty record on civil rights.
So Brewer's veto didn't necessarily stop the legalization of LGBT discrimination in Arizona. She merely prevented it from being the law of the land.
Indeed, this was merely another kneejerk GOP reaction to a case in a different state and a nifty excuse to build cred with paleoconservative, tea party voters.
Nationally, it's not over yet. Twelve other states have introduced some form of the Arizona law, most recently in Missouri. Several of the bills are dead, but others are being rushed through the various state legislatures. All of them lean heavily upon the religious liberty pretense for condoning a new form of segregation -- or, rather, the same form of pre-Civil Rights Act segregation, only with a different minority group.
Yesterday on Fox News Channel's American Newsroom, Tucker Carlson told us that preventing this kind of segregation was, yes, "fascism." That's right, the idea that it is or should be illegal for a business that's open to the public to refuse service to a customer because of who they are is like Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy.
CARLSON: Well it's pretty simple. I mean, if you want to have a gay wedding, fine, go ahead. If I don't want to bake you a cake for your gay wedding, that's okay too. Or should be. That's called tolerance. But when you try and force me to bake a cake for your gay wedding and threaten me with prison if I don't, that's called fascism.
The unapologetic steamrolling of Godwin's Law aside, reaching this nonsensical fascism observation regarding civil rights protections requires some seriously twisted logic, a skill for which Tucker has shown an aptitude.
First of all, contra-Tucker, no one's gone to prison for refusing service to gay, lesbian, bi or trans people. There isn't a single case in which this has happened, nor is it part of any non-discrimination laws anywhere. All of the laws regarding equal treatment carry fines as penalties for noncompliance. And I'm not aware of anyone in the debate surrounding these discriminatory laws suggesting that business owners who don't serve gay people should be tossed in the slammer.
Secondly, Tucker said with a straight face that this form of discrimination is the same as shopkeepers legally disallowing naked people or profanity on their premises -- which of course is completely absurd. Maybe we missed the news articles about people who use profanity being denied the right to get married and, in some cases, bullied, beaten or killed. Perhaps Tucker can point us to those cases next time.
Simply put: this isn't about being obnoxious or disruptive, it's about forbidding service to consumers because of who they are. Every time fellow panelist Alan Colmes mentioned pre-Civil Rights Act racial discrimination, and that before the historic law was passed it was perfectly legal for businesses to discriminate against African-Americans, Tucker dismissed this as being ludicrous. But how is it not the same thing? And how do these obviously regressive laws, if passed, not re-open the door to more of that exact same ugliness?
Meanwhile, it's worth noting that across the nation, it's still legal to be fired for being gay in 29 states. The Center for American Progress reported:
15 to 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job. According to the Williams Institute, a think tank out of UCLA School of Law, “17 percent reported being fired because of their sexual orientation, 13 percent reported being denied a promotion of receiving a negative job evaluation, and 20 percent reported being harassed verbally or in writing on the job” because they are gay or transgender.
I suppose the other 21 states where this kind of discrimination is illegal are ruled by fascist regimes actively locking up in gulags all non-compliant business owners who are caught firing workers for being gay. Who, if not Tucker, will weep for the poor, poor gay-bashing homophobic business owners, so unfairly persecuted for their ignorance?
Tucker's entire side of the debate comes down to two things: 1) Ron Paul style libertarianism mandating that business owners can do whatever they damn well please -- because Liberty!, and 2) the bastardization and exploitation of the religion clause of the First Amendment. It's difficult to decide which one is sillier. Either way, it's depressing that in 2014, we've actually been debating whether it's okay for people to behave like this, arguing against all of the same beats as the pre-Civil Rights Act era: liberty, religion and free-marketeering and so on. Every argument that exists in support of these laws is a repackaged version of what was rolled out in defense of segregation, anti-miscegenation laws and so forth. It's uncanny.
Jan Brewer successfully avoided being on the wrong side of history. Sadly, for too many others in her party, history will look back and shake its head at their nearsightedness, hatred and ignorance.