Three Quick Points on Arizona and the Rights of Gays, Lesbians and Transgendered People vs. Religious Freedom
Dave has already done a great postmortem on SB 1026, but skimming through the threads there I feel like there are three important points that still need to be made.
Dave already made this point (as did Burt), but it looks like people on both sides of the aisle still don’t understand and so I think it bears repeating:
AZ-SB1062 existed for no real reason other than social and political signaling. It granted no additional freedoms to anyone, nor did it take any away. In the state of Arizona (except for in a few municipalities), if you want to discriminate against a gay man or a lesbian couple it is your legal right. LGBTs have no legal protections in that state. If you find out a guy who works in your factory is gay and you want to fire him simply for being a “f***ot,” it is your right. You need not prove that a “sincere religious belief” is your reason for doing so.
For those who continue to say “who cares” when someone publicly admired comes out of the closet, this is yet another reason why they should. Likewise, anyone that thinks people working for LGBT rights are “extremists pushing their agenda onto others” should rightly consider, if they do indeed value religious freedom, how they would feel if it was legal to fire them for being Catholic, or Baptist, or whatever.
I wanted to highlight this interview of Al Melvin by Anderson Cooper. Melvin is a populist Republican Arizona State Senator who has announced that he will be running for governor; he was also one of most visible and vocal champions of AZ-SB 1062.
I don’t care what political stripe you are, you need to watch this interview if you have not already.
To be fair, Cooper is openly gay himself and therefore cannot reasonably be assumed to be objective on the subject. Be that as it may, the interview is truly astounding, even to me.
And I want to highlight it because it dovetails with the subject matter I have been focusing on lately (and been getting a lot of pushback on): that if the concept of “governance” is to actually mean anything, then where you stand on any particular hot-button issue is not nearly as important as is being competent at what you do.
Further, that even though populist movements are both more fun and more seductive in their siren call than boring old wonky, policy-oriented, get-the-trains-moving-on-time “public officials” from either party, they inevitably lead to intellectual bankruptcy. Because if you decide that you want to vote for people that tell you that you’re always right and that the actual experts, academics, professionals are “serious people” who should be dismissed out of hand just for not agreeing with you, you elect people like this to be your Senator:
And because it’s too juicy not to throw in as well, I should also add that Sen. Melvin recently went on record to protect kids from learning that socialist-fascist gateway subject of algebra, because it “uses ‘fuzzy math,’substituting letters for numbers in some examples.” (I know already that some are gong to say that I need to give the Senator the benefit of the doubt; that it may simply be that he was trying to hide the fact that he hadn’t actually read up on the subject matter he was actively campaigning on and didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. To which I would respond, this make him look better how, exactly?)
Despite the previous two points, make no mistake. The social conservatives who back AZ-SB 1062 are actually right. Granting freedom to LGBTs does hamper people’s religious freedom.
This is a point I have made before, but do not make often enough: There is no such thing as a choice between “freedom or tyranny” in a pluralistic democracy. Any freedom given to one person is, ultimately, a different freedom taken away from another. I can’t be free to play my music as loud in my backyard as I want without curbing my next door neighbor’s freedom to have a quiet evening in his own home. My community can’t have the freedom to decide as a group not to allow toxic waste to be dumped in our neighborhood without infringing on the freedom of the local factory to dump waste wherever he wants. I can’t protect myself against libel or slander without infringing upon your freedom of speech.
The lesson to be learned from AZ-SB 1062 isn’t that that we can grant freedoms to LGBTs without infringing on other people’s freedoms to not live in such a society; we can’t.
No, the lesson of AZ-SB 1062 is that when some politician comes around and asks for you to give him or her your power and your money because of they are “for freedom,” you should recognize that you are either dealing with a simpleton or a snake-oil salesman. And if you fall for it, you’re going to be represented by people like Al Melvin for your trouble.