Is Arizona a Turning Point?

Jim Burroway

February 27th, 2014

It would appear that the outcry over Arizona’s license-to-discriminate bill that was finally vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last night may have reached something of a high water mark. Major companies, business group, professional organizations, and major league sports all came out with strong statements denouncing the bill in the moments leading up to Brewer’s veto. Typical was this one from Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:

SB 1062 would serve to create an environment where consumers would not know how they would be treated – or whether they would even be served – when they patronize a business. This bill goes against the rule that every great business subscribes to, which is that the customer is always right. It will not only be bad for customers, but also bad for local business in the state. I also believe that it would be in consumers’ interests to be made aware of businesses within the state that did engage in discriminatory behavior. Since early 2010, Yelp has hired over 650 employees in Arizona. Over the next few years, we hope to hire hundreds more. It would be unconscionable for the state to encourage discrimination against any of them.

Arizona joins three other states in putting an end to their license-to-discriminate bills in just the past twenty-four hours:

  • Sponsors of Ohio’s license-to-discriminate bill withdrew their support yesterday. Moments later, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced that the bill was dead.
  •  The Mississippi House of Representatives Civil Subcommittee late yesterday voted to strike almost all of the provisions of their license-to-discriminate bill, leaving only a provision adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal. This move came after the state Senate gave its unanimous approval in January.
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced yesterday that he will veto a proposed license-to-discriminate bill if it reaches his desk. Earlier that day, he had refused to address the question during an interview on MSNBC.

Over the past several weeks, license-to-discriminate bills have been defeated or withdrawn in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Utah. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Similar bills are still working their way through Idaho, Missouri, South Dakota, and Georgia, where Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has announced its opposition. The Idaho bill was returned to a House committee last week, with the sponsor saying he wants to “find the right language.” In addition, there’s a push to put a similar measure on the ballot in Oregon in November.


Bose in St. Peter MN

February 27th, 2014

Yep, the work will definitely continue on this front as new, likely less extreme, bills are proposed. But it’s significant that business leaders got a wake-up call as to what anti-gay leaders have been asking for under the cover of “liberty.”

For the mainstream business folks who were never going to discriminate, but were largely agnostic on LGBT issues, there was no big reason to get in the way demands for exceptions by their peers running small wedding-oriented operations. But then it became clear that the demand was a fundamental rewrite in employer-employee relationships, with the state handing a toxic tool to employees. Even if only a tiny fraction of employees picked it up, they would be the drama-prone staffers who were already sucking up a lot of HR energy.

And, I’m not terribly open to whoops, that bill was inadvertently broad excuses. The extreme features, with every person empowered to walk away from their jobs & customers, were the intent of the folks who have been working on this for years.


February 27th, 2014

I just love the Christian-liars/lawyers at the ADF, who lie about the reason these laws are springing up, now. Oh, these laws that are springing up because we don’t want to recognize gay marriage? Oh, they have nothing to do with anti-gay discrimination. Nothing at all!

Richard Rush

February 27th, 2014

My understanding is that it has been, and still is, legal to discriminate against LGBT people in Arizona. If that’s true, I can only think of two purposes of the vetoed bill: 1) to publicly rub our noses in their belief that we deserve to be discriminated against, and 2) to publicly reaffirm that religion is indeed entitled to special rights.

Richard Rush

February 27th, 2014

Clarification: A commenter at JMG said that a few cities in Arizona have non-discrimination ordinances, so SB 1062 would, of course, have invalidated those.


February 27th, 2014

“Is Arizona a Turning Point?”

It’s good news, to be sure, but I won’t breathe easy until its clear that Texas and a few other states of the Deep South are not going ahead with this.

I think we still have huge battles ahead that we are far from sure of winning.


February 27th, 2014

You can be sure that SOMEWHERE, probably in the Deep South or Midwest, one of these odious POS “Biblical law” pieces of crap bills becoming law, probably within the next few months, in fact. Oh, and hey, straight folks, YOU ARE NEXT on the Far Right’s “Hit List.” The “God botherers” are going to get all up in your business and your bedrooms, too! You betcha!


February 27th, 2014

I think this is a tipping point in terms of avoiding anti-LGBT legislation, but we’ve no guarantee that pro-gay legislation, such as ENDA, will be enacted.


February 27th, 2014

The equivalent bill has a chance of passage in Missouri.


February 28th, 2014

They’ll be back. I’m taking this as the same strategy that the right has used on reproductive rights and has started to use on voting rights — they’ll just keep coming back, looking for a court case and a sympathetic judge, the aim being to chip away as anti-discrimination laws, which they have never liked. They know they can’t get them overturned, so they’ll keep nibbling at the edges.

Of course, as usual they can’t seem to draft a coherent bill, so it may take a while, but they won’t stop — the comment on the Idaho bill about “finding the right language” gives it all away.


February 28th, 2014

I agree with Hunter. This is only beginning. The outcry has driven our opponents efforts underground, or in the direction of more precise language. I fear they may find some phrasing that won’t attract a great deal of outcry, and will thus pass. My only hope is in how hard it will be to be sufficiently precise to not upset most people, yet sufficiently vague that it won’t be obviously anti-gay. And then, there might be that one state with leadership that doesn’t care about public outcry, no matter how pervasive, successfully enacting such legislation.

Richard, as I understand it, this bill would have made discrimination in Arizona more difficult to deal with. Even if there aren’t laws protecting LGBT people, personal law suits are still possible. But this bill would have made such suits risky. And larger companies can still fire or otherwise penalize employees who take it upon themselves to denounce specific customers, which, under this bill, may have become harder to do. Indeed, until I read Mr. Stoppleman’s statement, it hadn’t occurred to me how trying such legislation could be to a large company. Imagine going to a major store or outlet, not knowing if the employee you will be dealing with will be a jerk with something to prove. No matter how LGBT friendly a company and its policies may be, this law would have prevented recourse against bad employees. It is one thing to boycott a small, local business that has shown its anti-LGBT hand, but how should we deal with a pro-LGBT business with an anti-gay employee they can’t fire? At least for now, we won’t have to worry about that question in Arizona.

Mark F.

March 4th, 2014

As others have pointed out, I could respect social conservatives if they wanted to get rid of all anti-discrimination laws, including those relating to religion and race. But they don’t.

Priya Lynn

March 4th, 2014

I can’t respect anyone who wants to get rid of all anti-discrimination laws.

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