ARIZONA (CNN, Feb. 25, 2014) — Arizona’s SB1062 has pulled off a sort of political magic trick, in that warring sides can read the bill’s text and have not only different reactions, but completely opposite ones.
While proponents of gay rights dub the bill oppressive, those in favor of the bill becoming law say it represents freedom.
Freedom vs. oppression: That’s the polar contrast Gov. Jan Brewer must consider as she sits down to “listen to both sides” this week ahead of her decision whether to sign or veto the bill that has divided her state and drawn national and commercial interests into the fray.
Brewer has until Saturday to make her call, and her fellow Republicans in the state Legislature have suggested that a veto is likely.
In short, SB1062 would amend the existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allowing business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers so long as proprietors were acting solely on their religious beliefs.
The bill’s advocates insist that those claiming SB1062 amounts to bigotry and discrimination have hijacked and misrepresented its aims.
“The attacks on SB1062 show politics at its absolute worse. They represent precisely why so many people are sick of the modern political debate. Instead of having an honest discussion about the true meaning of religious liberty, opponents of the bill have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks, and irresponsible reporting,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which lent a hand in scribing the bill.
Kellie Fiedorek, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which also helped craft the bill, called SB1062 a “balancing test” that would protect all religions and sexual orientations while prohibiting Arizonans from “coercing someone to violate their sincerely held beliefs.”
“This bill has nothing to do with discrimination. It’s protecting basic freedoms that belong to everyone,” she said, explaining that it would protect a gay photographer’s decision not to work for Westboro Baptist Church, or Muslims who don’t want to sell “pork sandwiches on a Saturday.”