Jan Brewer and Orlando L. Garcia may not be household names, but the decisions they made Feb. 26 were monumental, and both individuals should be lauded as champions of equal rights who had the courage to take a stand against those who would deny those rights to some based on sexual orientation.
Brewer is the governor or Arizona, the state where the Republican-controlled legislature amazingly approved a bill that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gay people and others on religious grounds. Thankfully, Brewer did not let that happen.
The Republican governor was under immense pressure to veto the legislation from business owners, who viewed the proposal as a financial disaster and a serious blemish to the reputation of a state that doesn’t need any more bad PR.
I have no idea what motivated Brewer to veto this ridiculous legislation, but I’d like to think that one her first thoughts was to reject it simply because it was hateful and intolerant.
Think about it for a moment. The legislation would have permitted a business owner who believed that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman to refuse goods and services to gay people. That’s the kind of forward, progressive thinking I’d be damn proud of as an Arizona resident.
Of course, this is nothing new for the Grand Canyon State, which opposed making Martin Luther King Day a state holiday—a move that cost it the 1993 Super Bowl. The state also is known for prejudicial immigration laws.
Let’s understand something. Gay people deserve the same rights and civil liberties as anyone else, including the right to marry and raise children. They’ve fought for years for these rights, and no battle waged by intolerant folks who hide behind religion to justify their cause will hold them back at this point. That’s difficult for some people to appreciate.
But time moves on, as does society—most of society, anyway. Try to recall pictures from the 1960s of separate drinking fountains for black people or television footage of black students being denied admission to a southern university. Those images seem bizarre 50 years later. But at the time, that sort of bigotry made good sense to many people. How will today’s discriminatory behavior against gay people appear 50 year from now? Bizarre, I hope.
The annual gay pride parade commemorates the anniversary 1969 Stonewall riots, an uprising between New York City youth and police officers following a raid of the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar. Four decades later, the NBA has welcomed its first openly gay player, and Missouri football player Michael Sam is expected to be a high pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Meanwhile, there are those in Arizona who prefer things the way they’ve always been. The legislation, they argued, was designed to protect their religious freedoms. Brewer’s response was spot on. “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value,” the governor said, “so is no discrimination.”
Brewer’s actions should not overshadow those of Garcia, a federal judge in Texas, who struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Garcia ruled that the laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violated the United States Constitution. That’s a major victory in a state like Texas.
Garcia wrote that an amendment to the state Constitution that Texas voters approved in 2005 defining marriage as between a man and a woman — and two similar laws passed in 1997 and 2003 — denied gay couples the right to marry and demeaned their dignity “for no legitimate reason,” the New York Times reported.
His ruling is the latest in a series of decisions overturning bans or lifting restrictions on same-sex marriage in several states. Virginia’s ban was recently overturned and Kentucky was told to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states. In Oklahoma, the state’s amendment barring same-sex marriage was recently deemed unconstitutional.
You see, the resistance is waning. Open-mindedness and acceptance is surpassing narrow-mindedness and intolerance. Jan Brewer and Orlando Garcia are just two of the reasons why.