I support the veto of the Arizona “religious freedom” act, SB 1062.
I support the veto, not because I think it is anti-gay (it isn’t) and not because I don’t think that the freedom to exercise our religious beliefs need protecting.
I just think it is bad law.
Far from being an anti-gay bill, it actually places the burden of proof of religious infringement on the person claiming such. While it does add religious infringement as a valid defense to claims, it also requires that the defendant in such a claim to prove that there is an actual infringement in order to be considered an affirmative defense.
It also does an inadequate job of defining what constitutes “religion”, only stating that:
“Exercise of religion” means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF RELIGION, INCLUDING THE ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
So what constitutes a “religion” and “religious beliefs” are left open to be defined by the courts.
Currently, there is no prohibition in Arizona for a business refusing service to anyone for any reason and this bill changes that. Personal bias does not qualify as a “religion”, so homophobia and/or bigotry would not qualify. This bill is actually not pro-religion, it is arguably more favorable to the individual claiming discrimination for not being served that it is the person who refuses to provide the service.
It is poorly constructed and in my opinion, it has little chance of accomplishing its stated goal.
It is bad law and should be vetoed. Too many times people say that they are against infringement on individual rights but what they are really against is that they aren’t in charge to do the infringing. If you say you are against some sort of abuse, and then prosecute the same sort of abuse when you are in the majority, you are a hypocrite. That is the biggest problem I have with the establishment GOP, they wail against the Democrats doing crappy things and when they get in charge, they just do crappy things of their own…to me, this bill appears to fall into the “WE. MUST. DO. SOMETHING!” category instead of being well thought out…I think it is crap – but that is just my analysis, I’m not a legislator or a lawyer, I don’t play either on TV and I did NOT stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night…
There is also the invocation of the recent end of litigation in the New Mexico gay wedding photography case, Willock v. Elaine Photography, LLC – but there is something that never really came to the attention of the public in that case that is revealed in the final order of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.
The fact of the matter is that while the respondent, Elaine Photography was clear that they did not prefer to photograph gay weddings, the complainant’s (Vanessa Willock) partner, Misti Collinsworth (aka Misty Pascottini) proceeded to attempt to secure the services of Elaine Photography after it was clearly known that they were not interested in the business. Collinsworth did so under the name of Misty Pascottini without identifying that it would be a same-sex ceremony, apparently with the intent to deceive Elaine Photography.
Ms. Willock and Ms. Collinsworth (Pascottini) filed a “public access” discrimination complaint AFTER securing another photographer who successfully photographed the ceremony – and for substantially less than the amount quoted by Elaine Photography.
According to the final order:
“Ms. Willock was shocked, angered and saddened to receive Ms. Elaine Huguenin’s response. Ms. Willock was also fearful, because she considered the opposition to same-sex to be so blatant. Ms. Willock thought that Ms. Elaine Huguenin’s response was an expression of hatred at what Ms. Willock had hoped to be a happy occasion.”
So, other than losing her “joy” over this, she could demonstrate no material harm. She must have had time to recover her joy as the actual ceremony didn’t take place for almost another year.
Elaine Photography and its owners, Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, were targets of two apparently radical lesbians who set this business up and apparently were intent on forcing their views on others, not the other way around. There were ample opportunities for them to secure another photographer (which they did) and there was no binding legal agreement between the complainant and the respondent. This case was decided wrongly on the law and says more about political correctness and arbitrary exercise of authority by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission than it does fairness.
The point to all of this is this: you can’t trust a government or a judiciary to decide based on principle. Most quasi-judicial bodies like the New Mexico Human Rights Commission are politically motivated and view legislation as nothing less than an opportunity for mischief. This is the kind of crap that has opened Pandora’s Box and ultimately results in less liberty for everybody. There is a reason that the Constitution spells out limited government.