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The Anti-Gay Bill in Arizona Is Much Worse than You Think

Are video games unholy pastimes of the Devil, in your sincere estimation? Go ahead and fire your Minecraft-playing employees.  

Arizona is making national headlines for a bill to license discrimination against gays and lesbians. Senate Bill 1062 would, in the words of the New York Times editorial board, “give businesses and individuals the broad right to deny services to same-sex couples in the name of protecting religious liberty.”

A bipartisan outcry has broken out in the wake of the measure’s approval by the Arizona legislature last week. John McCain and Jeff Flake, the state’s Republican senators, are urging Governor Jan Brewer to ready her veto pen, and several of the very state senators who voted for the bill last week are backtracking on their support.

The bill is indeed a very bad idea. Few commentators, though, seem to appreciate just how bad an idea it is. Far beyond enabling anti-gay discrimination, the legislation inflates the realm of religious liberty for Arizonans to an impossible extent. It gives everybody with a sincere religious belief license to do almost anything. In a post at The Economist yesterday, I noted that the bill “empowers any individual or entity to discriminate against people they find religiously unpalatable”:

Do you believe that physically unattractive people are marked as such by a disapproving deity? You needn’t hire them to work in your mail room. Are video games unholy pastimes of the Devil, in your sincere estimation? Ask people applying to wait tables in your restaurant if they play Minecraft and dismiss them if they do.

 A reader (“RumbaClave”) then added this comical but spot-on ironic comment:

If I had a restaurant in Arizona I would bar entry to hipsters, bros, bearded men with tattoos, red necks, white trash, people kissing passionately in public, anyone with body order or excessive perfume/aftershave, anyone on a cell phone or talking loud. Anyone screaming while watching a football game, drunks arguing at the bar with good customers, obese people at the Sunday buffet. Anyone with neck tattoos, Google glasses and cheap tippers, any Tea Party member or cable TV anchor from FOX or CNBC.

There will be no dice playing at the bar and the women will outnumber the men 3 to 1.

There is one potential flaw that may foil RumbaClave’s tongue-in-cheek plan: he has to have a sincere religious objection to bad tippers, tattooed men, and so on. It isn’t enough to dislike or even abhor these individuals. Arizona’s pending legislation protects only discrimination premised on a religious motive. Noah Millman keeps the riff going on what that might entail:

It would legalize polygamy and marriage with underage girls (both sanctioned by so-called fundamentalist Mormon groups). It would permit public school teachers to explicitly proselytize to their students (I’m quite certain you could find fringe Protestant groups or individuals who hold that such witnessing is mandatory at all times). I’m not sure, but I think if you founded a Church of Nude Defecation, and declared that God told you the Arizona state legislature was your temple, the state of Arizona could not expel you for practicing your faith in the place that God had designated.

One need not hypothesize quite that crudely to conclude that this may well be the crappiest bill Arizona legislators have ever passed. 

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