Yesterday, Arizona’s Republican-heavy Senate approved a bill that allowed businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs.
Sounds like a step in the wrong direction, right? Not so fast. Despite my obvious support for LGBT rights, I had a smirk when I finally let the news sink in. Allow me a couple paragraphs to explain.
Rarely do we have cases like SB1062, which on the surface seems very much like a loss for gay rights, but really, it will serve as a constant reminder of what discrimination looks like and a rallying point for the LGBT cause.
Bill SB1062, or the anti-gay law, is so ass-backwards that it’s intended purpose, in action, will be it’s demise. And rightfully so.
There may be a lot of happy bigots out there with the passing of this bill, but outside of the paper it’s printed on, a law like this does nothing but further LGBT rights in the long term. As opposed to more covert and complex political tactics — there’s no gray area with clear and obvious discrimination especially where our country is the throes of it’s inevitable move toward full rights for gays and lesbians.
Imagine the coverage of the law being exercised. The articles about the LGBT family (with two sons) refused lunch and told to leave the local diner, the two recently-married (in another state) lesbians denied a room at a Scottsdale hotel or the gay male couple prevented from adopting an adorable three-legged puppy from the pet store.
Kicked out of church? No movies for you? All the gay groups could pool all their money and couldn’t buy the outrage that SB1062 will provide.
Yes, I’m laying it on thick with the examples, but my point is that these stories don’t need closed-captioning or any level of explanation – they immediately pull at the heart strings and tear at the soul, forcing visceral, emotional responses that will not just resonate with the LGBT community, but more importantly, heterosexual allies.
Arizona’s SB1062 is the real life version of that cheesy, but somewhat effective ABC series “What Would You Do?” which plops real people in staged, difficult situations and forces them to respond (or not). Check out the video of gay parents being aggressively questioned while in a Texas restaurant.
The show is successful in that it forces others to put themselves in the shoes of the victims or bystanders. What would you do? And what would you do if you read about fellow citizens being actively discriminated against in relatable, everyday situations?
You might say that there are state laws that already allow refusal of service to gay customers, so how is Arizona’s any better? What differs most is the visibility and awareness of this law — each application of this law will generate headlines in the news.
So don’t fret LGBT community and allies, this bill is a gift delivered to the doorstep of progress and equality. An SB1062 or Fred Phelps doesn’t come around often, and though the bill’s intent is hateful, and the result may seem like a step back, time will show that the passing of the bill was an important touchpoint in the road to LGBT civil rights.
Oh yeah, remember ‘SB1062’? What were they thinking?