I have a magnet on my frig that instructs me to "Start each day with a grateful heart!"
So I'm going to start this day by being grateful to the state of Arizona, for making Utah look like the epicenter of love and tolerance, at least comparatively speaking.
You may have heard Arizona's Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill allowing business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers, so long as they assert their "deeply held religious beliefs" as the reason for denial. The bill now awaits the signature, or veto, of the state's governor, Jan Brewer.
A conservative group opposed to same-sex marriage, The Center for Arizona Policy, is behind the bill. The president of the Center, Cathi Herrod, justified it by saying: "It's simply about protecting religious liberty and nothing else."
But here's the thing: It's about a lot more than religious freedom. It's about the thousands of teenagers who commit suicide each year because they're bullied for being gay, and people who tell them they're not equal. It's about science, which continues to prove people are born gay; it's no more a choice than being born black or female. And it's about extremists making the imaginative leap that granting equality is somehow personally condoning a lifestyle they disagree with.
If my neighbor beat his wife and drove drunk and blew his rent payment on lottery tickets, he still has the right to put gas in his car, stay in a hotel or eat at a restaurant. And baking a cake for his kid's birthday party doesn't make the baker personally liable for his behavior, nor does it suggest the baker approves of it.
This bill is nothing short of dangerous. Where does discrimination based on "deeply held religious beliefs" end? Can a doctor refuse to offer lifesaving treatment because the patient is an unmarried pregnant woman? Can a Baptist hotel worker refuse to allow a Buddhist couple to rent a room for a night?
Thank goodness Joseph and Mary weren't on a mule to Sedona. She was pregnant outside of wedlock; they were Jewish, homeless and poor. And their son turned out to be a peace-loving hippie. Ironic that most of the current Arizona Republican legislators would have turned Mary and Joe away based on their "deeply held religious beliefs."
Proof you can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.
But aside from the whole "Love your neighbor as yourself" violation, this piece of legislation doesn't make good economic sense either. It's fiscally stupid. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council, wrote a letter to the governor last week urging her to veto the bill, saying the "legislation will likely have profound, negative effects on our businesses community for years to come."
The letter went on to say several business headquartered in Arizona have threatened to leave if this legislation passes, there will be costly lawsuits (funded, of course, by the taxpayers) and there will be boycotts from the rest of the country, damaging the state's tourism income.
And while supporters can continue to argue it's all in the name of "religious freedom," it's not. It's about zealots trying to force their sense of morality on others. If the bill passes, consider this scenario:
A woman is driving home from her shift as a nurse. It's 2 a.m. and she's out of gas, she rolls into the station on "E." She is 10 miles from home, it's raining and this is the closest gas station for miles. She goes into the shop to pay, but the gas station is owned by a devout Muslim. It's against his "deeply held religious beliefs" to do business with a woman who is not wearing a burqa. He refuses to turn on the pump, she can't fill up and has to walk home.
Or, let's say you find the home of your dreams. You've gone to the bank and secured a loan, called the movers, and sold your house. You're ready to move in to your new place. But the Realtor won't sell it to you because you eat meat and she's a Hindu.
The outrage would be deafening and these actions would initiate lawsuits. Why? Because discrimination isn't acceptable, no matter which holy book you read.
So if you really believe this is about religious freedom, congrats. You're the fool who was born this minute. And I've got some ocean-front property in Arizona I'd like to sell you.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.