Well, that’s over.
On Wednesday night, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona announced that she had vetoed SB 1062, a bill that many, many people were worried would allow Arizona businesses to refuse gay people service in the name of religious tolerance.
All in all, this was a good exercise, I guess, because every so often I like to wake up in mortal terror that I have traveled back in time a few decades or wound up in a weird alternate timeline. You never know. When you hear, “A state is passing a law making it legal to refuse service to people of whom you disapprove,” two explanations instantly spring to mind: someone finally went back in time and took down Hitler, and this is one of those unintended consequence butterfly-effect things, or you accidentally wound up a few decades in the past.
That it is 2014 and this is just part of a push being made across the country to pass such “anti-discrimination” laws is, well, also a possibility, but one that is about equally depressing.
In vetoing the bill, Brewer said the bill was “broadly worded” and “has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.”
Whatever the bill’s intent was, businesses, voters and activists alike were convinced that it could be used to allow people to refuse service to an alarmingly broad category of individuals — not just gay couples. It’s easy to be convinced when the entire Indignation Machine is fired up online and everyone from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Delta Airlines to the NFL is asking you to put the kibosh on the bill, and when it’s 2014. Let me reiterate that it is 2014.
I get that vintage is in. Everywhere you look, people are wearing vintage glasses that make them look as if they stepped out of the 1960s. Mad Men shoes and skirts and ties, fedoras even. But vintage laws seem to be taking it a little far.
Religious liberty is, as judge Carol E. Jackson stated, “a shield, not a sword.” If I believe that sacrificing you on a pyre next to three bullocks will make Poseidon give me favorable sailing winds, I don’t get to grab you and toss you onto a pile of burning logs. Not even if I shout, “I have the right to worship as I choose, and this is how I choose to worship!” Nope. And the fact that I don’t get to do that is in no way a violation of my religious freedom. (Nice try, though, sneaky Poseidon-worshipper me!)
I believe in freedom of worship. The United States was founded on the freedom to worship as you choose, to do your best to love your neighbor — or, alternatively, the opposite of that, because they left that line out of your edition and reprinted Leviticus in a giant font instead. I believe in freedom of association, and I admit the logical premise that if you are the kind of person who wouldn’t hire someone because of a trait over which he had no control, it could be a nightmare for everyone involved if he had to work in close proximity to you. But that’s letting the bullies off the hook. “If you won’t make me a cake with good will, then hold your peace!” is easy to say when you have other options.
This veto offered nice reassurance that it is not 1894, but, all in all, it was a little closer than it needed to be.
We’ve come pretty far in terms of expanding the embrace of tolerance and acceptance in a remarkably short time. Sometimes we just assume that “it’s 2014, and that’s all been taken care of,” but it turns out we’re wrong. Maybe this was a wake-up call. Consider: A Public Religion Research Institute poll found that “[t]hree-quarters (75%) of Americans incorrectly believe it is currently illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” As Adam Serwer noted on Twitter “To hazard a guess: Most Americans believe it’s illegal because they think it’s obvious that it should be.” Currently, only 17 states (including D.C.) offer such protection, and Arizona (unlike its neighbor New Mexico) is not among them. Happy 2014!