An Ex-Arizonan on SB1062

Today is going to be different. I don’t usually use this blog to promote or express my political convictions. It’s happened, but it’s far from the norm. This is a blog about writing. A blog to chronicle my experiences as I develop my craft. A place to speak freely, to share my vulnerability, and to help me realize that I am not alone.

But, today is going to be different. I am from Arizona, though I left it behind over two years ago. It’s an arid land, where heat and dust reign supreme, and every rocky crag seems to house some sort of life you never thought possible. It’s magical in its own way, though it can be hard to appreciate if you didn’t grow up there.

Also, let me start by saying that I am white. I have naturally dark blonde hair and blue eyes. I have never been discriminated against. I’ve been teased, or jeered at because I’m heavier than ideal, but that’s not discrimination. You get over kids’ jokes, or college boys shouting at you as they drive by. It just aids in the development of thicker skin.

I’m also straight, as most of you had probably figured since I talk about Trevor a lot.

But, it’s time that I spoke out about what’s happening in Arizona. I know that it’s all over the place now, that you’ve heard a dozen different sides of this story, but I can’t sit by and let other bloggers have their say, and not give my thoughts voice.

So, SB1062. How many of you have actually read it? Did you? Or did you take the media’s word for it? Or George Tekei’s word for it? Or maybe Matt Walsh’s word for it?

Well, if you took all those versions into account, suddenly this bill is really confusing. I’m going to be quoting it, so here’s the bill in its entirety.

Now, there’s a blog on Freshly Pressed that I read this morning. “A Breakup Letter to Matt Walsh”. I wasn’t sure how I knew that name, but was intrigued enough to click into that blog, and then over to Matt Walsh’s.

Oh, now I remember. Matt Walsh is that guy my cousin loves. She reposts a lot of his blogs, and I usually end up reading them and being surprised at how charming, and intelligent he comes across. He almost gets me to see his side of these controversial topics. Almost.

He gives a reasonable appearance to viewpoints I can usually write off as radical. And that’s what makes him dangerous. He’s a religious radical with the voice of a scholar.

But, I’m also not posting today to personally attack Matt Walsh. I don’t have to read his blog, and I won’t.

But, when I clicked over to his blog today, the first post was about SB1062, and how gays are discriminating against and harassing Christians. It seemed so preposterous to me that I had to read it.

In true Matt Walsh fashion, the post was well written, witty, and charming. He gave examples and links. The supposed proof of how terribly Christians are being treated. I shrugged it off, because I know it’s not true. But it was the comments that I couldn’t ignore.

Over 900 people had commented on this one post, and most of them were cheering “Amen”, and vocalizing all kinds of hate. Not straightforward, or angry hate. But the worst kind of hate. The kind where someone has been justified in their in it. They have been given the “ok” to feel the way they feel, and told that they can voice it, and that they are right.

So let’s go back to SB1062.

Senate Bill 1062 claims to protect Religious Freedom.

“”Exercise of religion” means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF  RELIGION, INCLUDING THE ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

This is the part that the nation has become so enthralled with. This is the part that says, if it’s against your religion, you don’t have to do it.

When written that generally, of course it makes sense. But, let’s get a little more specific.

The Bill is geared for businesses. It’s meant to ‘protect’ businesses from lawsuits because they deny service based on their religious beliefs.

This is where I have a problem. Christians are claiming that the First Amendment protects this behavior.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

But, my understanding of “Exercise of Religion” means that you can not be persecuted for gathering to worship. You are allowed, and protected by law, to worship what and how you will.

So, Matt Walsh uses some examples. For one, a gay couple who wanted a cake made for their wedding. The Baker refused to make the cake, because they were Christian, and couldn’t provide that service for a gay marriage. So, the couple sued.

Matt Walsh and his followers were shocked. Abhorred. Why didn’t the couple just say, “I’ll take my business elsewhere” and storm out?

Here’s why:

This couple had been going to this Baker for almost a decade. They had birthday cakes, and confections for all kinds of parties, and stopped in just to by a treat countless times. For almost a decade!

Obviously the couple liked this baker, their products, services, and more than likely had a good relationship with them. They’d never been refused service before. Imagine how many people they recommended to this baking company. Imagine all the extra business this couple brought this baker. All that extra money.

And so, they’re considering vendors for what is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. And there was no question who should make the cake. Their favorite baker, who makes such wonderful cakes, and has been so nice all this time.

And they are denied. Told that the baker can’t make a cake for their wedding, because they believe gay marriage is a sin.

Imagine their heartbreak. Imagine how bad that would hurt. Someone you thought liked you, and that you’d spent HUNDREDS of dollars at and talked so much about. Imagine that person looked you in the eye, and in no fewer words told you they thought you were an abomination.

All because you want to spend your life with the one you love.

SB1062 makes that kind of treatment, that kind of discrimination, legal.

A lot of Arizonans, and other right wing thinkers say, “of course you should be able to deny service in your business!” And of course, you can. That’s what those little signs are for. The ones that read, “We have the right to refuse service.” You’ve always had that right.

So what’s the difference?

One is the right to deny service because a customer is causing an uproar in your lobby, or a homeless man in panhandling on your patio. Someone is interfering with your business.

The other, is discrimination against paying customers using your religion as a scapegoat for your hate.

So, Christians keep saying they’re being discriminated against. Taking the plight of gays, spinning it on its head, and using it for their own purposes. But you know what’s really happening?

It’s not discrimination. It’s a spotlight. A bright, inescapable light focused on you. And for the first time the nation is starting to see how backwards your train of thought is.

You can worship. You’ve always worshipped. No one in this nation has ever kept you from it. But, for the first time, the nation doesn’t agree with you. And suddenly you’re forced to know what it feels like to be told, “you’re wrong.”

So stop bleating about how oppressed you are. It’s bullshit.

But, that’s not all SB1062 does. That’s just one small part. The part the media blew up on. The opening sentiment. In true AZ fashion, there’s more.

“”Person” includes ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION, ESTATE, TRUST, FOUNDATION OR OTHER LEGAL ENTITY.”

This is what makes this bill so incredibly dangerous. This bill proposes that corporations are people. That land is protected under this bill. So, if a school is built on land protected, that could affect who would be allowed to attend.

And if you think the discrimination would stop at gays, you’re poorly mistaken.

Children born out of wedlock? Cohabiting couples?

So, you fill out an application for an apartment, but are denied. Not because of your credit, or financial standing, but because you’re a man and woman, but not married.

That’s what this bill allows. It is a far reaching, and incredibly insidious piece of paper. The fact that it passed Arizona’s legislature is stunning, and yet should have been expected. Arizona is renowned for it’s radical and unforgiving lawmaking. One of the main reasons I left.

I have one last tangent. I know this post may anger some, and I’m prepared for the possible backlash. But I’m not done yet.

I want to take a moment to humanize this topic. Because, in the media blur, we forget that this is about people. Real people.

In Arizona, I didn’t know that many gay people. I didn’t think anything of it, just figured that they’re a minority. But, what it really was is that the social climate in AZ makes it incredibly difficult to be yourself. If you’re gay you have to be flamboyant, because that’s the expectation. If you’re not flamboyant, you’re not out. That’s my understanding. And of course the opposite for women. If you’re lesbian, you need to do your best to look like a man, so everyone knows which “team” you’re on. That’s just how it is.

And then I came to the Pacific Northwest.

And here, I am surrounded by so many beautiful people. And they take that stand to be themselves. Beautiful women, with long hair and great fashion sense, walk hand and hand in the park, or kiss on the beach. They shop together for their Christmas decorations, and go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings.

Men who have been engaged for years because they don’t want to get married out of the state they love, so they’re waiting for gay marriage to be legal. Their lives are on hold because they want to get married.

A young woman buys her girlfriend a promise ring. And there’s excitement, but doubt too. How long will they have to wait? Even though they’ve been dating for over a year. Have supported each other through all kinds of hardship. Have LOVED each other this whole time. How long?

And another couple, who have been living together for over three years, and still  some family members think they’re just roommates. Because, accepting a family member must be so incredibly difficult, and they have to worry that their own FAMILY won’t accept them. That same couple can’t spend “unsupervised” time with their nieces and nephews, because they chose each other. And they just happen to both be women.

And another, who, even in her 60s still has to deal with the fact that her father never accepted her. That he died before ever repairing the relationship with his only daughter. Because she likes women instead of men.

So here’s what I’m asking for.

We need a change of thought. A change of heart. Stop thinking in black and white. Stop thinking in definitions. The controversy isn’t Gay Marriage. It’s marriage. Just marriage.

Calling it “Gay Marriage” still marginalizes it. In your effort to be clear, to understand, you are dividing us. Separating the straights and the gays. Even if it were legalized throughout the nation, it would still be less than, if we continue to call it “gay marriage”.

It’s not about men and women. It’s about love. And commitment. It’s about choice. It’s about respect. And overall, it’s about being equal. About being treated like a human being, no matter what your life is like.

So stop with the definitions. Enough with the hate.

Please.

 

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