If Republican lawmakers in Arizona and seven other states got their way, their states would have laws allowing Islamic owners of restaurants to refuse service to women who appear in public without a male relative or without covering their heads. Those Republican lawmakers say that it infringes on the religious freedom of business owners not to have a law spelling out their right to deny service to customers whose behavior is inconsistent with their own beliefs.
Of course, LGBT people are the real targets of the laws, and it’s already legal in Arizona and most of the other states considering such laws to discriminate against LGBT people. The laws’ backers are simply trying to underscore their hatred.
Republicans pursuing such laws have been inspired by a smattering of cases in which Christians have been sued for declining to provide their services to same-sex weddings. For instance, a bakery in Colorado was sued for declining to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, and a New Mexico photographer was taken to court for refusing to take pictures at a gay wedding. In both cases, the defendants claimed that providing their services to homosexuals violated their religions.
Fundamentalist Christians believe laws that prohibit them from discriminating on religious grounds effectively discriminate against them on religious grounds. Chasing their tails in classic circular reasoning, they contend that it’s an act of discrimination to prevent them from discriminating.
For several days, GOP Gov. Jan Brewer signaled that she might actually sign her party’s discrimination-authorizing, anti-discrimination bill into law. Her stalling allowed time for most of the major corporations operating in the state, along with other Republican leaders, including Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain, to give her cover on the fringe right by writing strong messages urging her to veto the measure, which she finally did.
But the actions of the Arizona Legislature likely did considerable damage to the state. During Brewer’s period of indecision, the Hispanic National Bar Association announced that it would not hold its 2015 national convention in Phoenix as planned. The NFL was planning to move next year’s Super Bowl if Brewer had signed the law.
That would have been the second time that the NFL abandoned Arizona due to its backward conservatism. In 1993, the NFL moved the Super Bowl from the Phoenix area to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., after Arizona voted down an effort to establish a state holiday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Arizona has been a hotbed of far-right orthodoxy in recent years. As a result, many companies would likely think twice before relocating to Arizona or opening new operations in such a volatile and backward political climate. Conventioneers and tourists, who together comprise a significant portion of the state’s economic activity, might also have second thoughts about taking their business to Arizona.
There is no doubt that the law, despite the veto, has harmed Arizona. Let Wisconsin and other states take heed that discriminatory laws have far-ranging consequences, including economic ones.