Is Al Melvin a Genius? Why a veto of SB1062 is NOT a victory for gay rights
Lately I have been active on Facebook and Twitter suggesting that we use the momentum against SB1062 to also get a repeal of SB1070 and HB2281; two laws from the last election cycle that are still on the books in Arizona.
Especially since we know that Jan Brewer is going to veto SB1062; why not transform this energy to get some justice for Latinos also?
But it may be that all the activists fighting SB1062, from the Democratic Party to George Takei, may think this week’s coming veto is a victory and congratulate themselves for a job well done.
The reality is that discrimination against the LGBT community will still be legal in Arizona, just as discriminating against brown-skinned citizens under the guise of being “reasonably suspicious” is legal in Arizona.
Neither Arizona nor federal law provide any special protection on sexual orientation or gender identification.
That differs from New Mexico, where the state Supreme Court ruled that a gay couple could sue a photographer who refused to take pictures of their wedding. New Mexico law does extend protected status to sexual orientation.
It was that case, and a similar one in Colorado over a wedding cake for gays, that led to calls for SB1062. And that’s what got the attention of the LGBT community.
In Arizona, however, nothing in state law requires businesses to serve those who are gay.
Thus is may be that Senator Al Melvin, famous from his interview with Anderson Cooper this week, may be a genius.
Arizona gets to continue to discriminate against gay people, but everyone got distracted by this red cardinal he created, they went after it and shot it down, proclaimed victory when the reality is that NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
And even in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, which do extend rights based on sexual orientation, only the government can take action against an offending firm, with companies already able to claim a shield against government action under existing law. There is no individual right to sue.
“My summary is, it means almost nothing,” said Paul Bender, former dean of the Arizona State University College of Law.
“People talk about, ‘I’ll go into a bakery and ask them for a wedding cake,’ and they’ll say, ‘I don’t do wedding cakes for gay weddings,’” Bender said. “So what? You can’t sue them for that.”
So all these clever memes on Facebook comparing this battle to denying black people lunch at a restaurant are missing the point.
This bill does not legalize it. What it does do is make everyone think that legal discrimination against gay people is not okay in Arizona, and with a veto of SB1062 it will remain not okay.
The truth is that discrimination against gay people will remain okay in Arizona. But the activists and attention will be gone by then after the champagne bottles are empty from proclaiming victory.
All that will be left will be Latino janitors cleaning up after the party, followed by a raid led by Sheriff Arpaio and Steven Seagal because they heard some Mexicans were working in the kitchen.