You probably have an opinion about the Arizona legislature’s controversial new bill, SB 1062, awaiting signature or veto by Gov. Jan Brewer. You may have complained that it reinstates “Jim Crow” by allowing businesses to refuse to serve gays. You may have defended it as a necessary response to the courts’ encroachments on the freedom of religion, where people have been sued for refusing to bake cakes or take pictures at gay weddings.
But have you actually read the bill itself?
It’s shorter than most of the articles you’ve read about it. It doesn’t include the words “gay” or “lesbian” or even “same-sex.” It is an amendment to an existing law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1999. It allows private individuals to assert religious belief as a defense against discrimination lawsuits. But it also makes it more difficult for individuals to prove that their religious observance or practice is, in fact, sincere.
Would I support SB 1062? No, I would not.
My reading of the text is that the bill, as written, is unconstitutionally vague. It will allow substantially more discrimination than the religiously-permitted discrimination the bill was written to address. In other words, the bill was conceived to protect individuals from being forced to participate in gay marriage, but it could go far beyond marriage. The bill is an overreaction to bad court decisions that are still going through appeal.
That’s my opinion. But I’ve read the bill. Have you?