Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062 — a bill that would have allowed Arizona businesses to decline services to homosexuals — on Feb. 26. Brewer’s decision was the right one. While legislators behind the bill claimed Brewer’s approval would have provided freedom to religiously conservative individuals rather than discrimination of homosexuals, that is simply not the case. SB 1062 was not even close to promoting any sort of freedom. Instead, the bill fostered a type of modern segregation, replacing prejudice toward skin color with sexuality. The bill would have ushered in a new era of Jim Crow laws — this time directed toward the gay community.
The similarities between the Jim Crow Laws and SB 1062 are disgustingly apparent. The Jim Crow Laws, which smothered the South from 1876 to 1965, forbade Africans-Americans from doing things like eating in the same restaurants, using the same bathrooms and riding in the same train cars as white Americans. SB 1062 did just that, except to homosexuals. Under the bill, gay men and women could have been refused a hotel room, a table at a restaurant, service at a supermarket and even a cab ride. That means a business owner in Arizona would have had the power to reject a person based on their sexuality just like a business owner in the South under Jim Crow was able to reject a customer based on their race.
It has been nearly 50 years since the Jim Crow laws were abolished and in that amount of time there has been serious advancements for not just African-Americans, but also the homosexual community. Since the 1960s, gay men and women have seen significant progress in their rights — striking down DOMA and repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” for examples. It is 2014, and if a gay man can get married and serve his country openly, a law preventing him from service at a business would have completely undermined any success in the advancements made.
Heterosexuality should not be considered more acceptable than homosexuality. A growing percentage of American men and women are openly identifying themselves as gay and they shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because they do not crawl into bed and lie next to the opposite sex at night. There is no right skin color, no right sexuality. Jim Crow laws asserted there was a right way to look, SB 1062 maintained there was a right way to love.
Jim Crow laws and SB 1062 are one in the same. The approval of one would have condoned the other, and neither is ethical. Gov. Brewer was right in vetoing such a despicable piece of legislation. Black or white, gay or straight, we are all one — and to divide us yet again over access to a hotel room or a simple cab ride for the sake of the comfort of those with a narrow mind would have been a crime.
Lena Rawley is a staff columnist. Email her at [email protected]