Arizona Refusing To Learn Lessons From Colorado’s Dance With Discrimination

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(credit: PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/GettyImages)

(credit: PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/GettyImages)

Dominic Dezzutti By Dominic Dezzutti
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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In 1992, Colorado voters passed Amendment 2 which essentially legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians. Colorado became known as the “hate state,” and even after Amendment 2 was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state took severe hits in the media and in tourism dollars.

Now, 22 years later, Arizona is playing with a similar fate as Gov. Jan Brewer contemplates signing or vetoing a bill that would allow businesses to deny services to customers based on their religious convictions.

Gov. Jan Brewer speaks after members of the National Governors Association met on Feb. 24  in Washington. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is seen at right. (credit: CBS)

Gov. Jan Brewer speaks after members of the National Governors Association met on Feb. 24 in Washington. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is seen at right. (credit: CBS)

Even if Gov. Brewer vetoes the bill, as she did a similar bill last year, Arizona has endured some serious damage in the national spotlight. Large companies such as Apple and the National Football League have gone on record that they are “watching the proceedings” with great interest.

Apple is slated to build a new facility in Arizona and Phoenix is looking to host a future Super Bowl. While Apple and the NFL haven’t overtly threatened to pull out if the bill becomes law, the threat is understood.

Oddly enough, Colorado may actually be in a position to take advantage of the situation in Arizona, especially if Gov. Brewer signs the bill. Denver is hoping to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, as is Phoenix.

While some conservatives may even support the idea behind the bill, there is no way a political party aligns itself with a state that makes this kind of legal move.

The issue stems from the idea of bakeries or professional photographers who are asked to provide their services for a gay wedding and want to decline based on their religious beliefs against gay marriage. And while there are some lawsuits in New Mexico over this exact issue, it is not like thousands of gay and lesbian couples are twisting the arms of born-again wedding photographers to come shoot their weddings.

The proposed solution is causing far more damage than the problem.

It was a long 21 years between Colorado voters passing Amendment 2 and the Colorado Legislature legalizing civil unions. But the right evolution has taken place. Regardless of religious beliefs, these issues are based in how our government treats the issue, not how our religious beliefs treat the issue. The law does not mandate that churches or temples must now go against any particular teaching. It pertains to how publicly registered businesses can do business.

If we allow discrimination of gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs of some business owners, where does that line officially end?

If we do not restrict any religion, then couldn’t any religion eventually discriminate just about anyone? Again, we’re not talking about churches, we’re talking about businesses. Can a Muslim who operates a fly fishing tour prohibit Jewish customers? Could a Mormon business that sells freeze dried food decide to not sell to a Jehovah Witness? Where would the line be drawn?

America is based on a long, proud tradition of freedom. But at many times in our history we have decided to advance our country not in the name of personal freedom, but in the name of ensuring equality.

It is that proud history of equality that Gov. Brewer must remember as she ponders the fate of this bill. If she does not, it may be another 21 years before her state recovers from the sobering lesson.

Dominic Dezzutti’s Latest Blog Entries

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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