Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes Bill Which Would Have Allowed Businesses To Refuse Services To Gays

Fox News has the breaking story:

Arizona Gov, Jan Brewer announced Wednesday she has vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed religious beliefs as a defense for denying service to gays and others.

Brewer, who spent several days considering whether to sign the bill, said it had “the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.”

Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the measure backed by social conservatives, saying it would allow discriminatory actions by businesses and hurt the state’s economy by driving away business. …

The Arizona Legislature passed the bill last week allowing businesses whose owners cite sincerely held religious beliefs to deny service to gays and others. It allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

I’ve written before about a similar law before the South Dakota legislature. Many, even among conservatives, are cheering the defeat of this bill. I don’t know the specifics of the Arizona, but I’m not sure why this is such a controversial issue. One of the arguments against the bill, one voiced by Brewer herself in vetoing it, is that there’s no evidence that Arizona business owners are facing threats to their religious conscience.

Be that as it may, is that really an argument against a law that would explicitly allow conscience as a justification to refuse service?

Why do we want to use the law to compel the service of private citizens to people they don’t want to serve? Whatever we may make of their motivations, do we really want to live in a country where the services of a wedding photographer or cake baker can be conscripted?

I have a feeling that, if shoes were on different feet, the public reaction might be different. Should we pass a law requiring that gay business owners must serve anti-gay activists? Should a gay bakery have to serve, say, Fred Phelps or a member of his evil congregation?

Or how about this: Could we pass a law forcing a vegetarian restaurant to serve hamburgers?

I think that one of the most important freedoms we have as Americans is the freedom to say no, whatever others may think of our motivations. I am very supportive of gay rights. I would not patronize a business that discriminates against gays. But I have a hard time supporting a legal situation that forces people to serve others when they don’t want to.

But we seem to live in an age where we aren’t content to merely disagree with one another, but must thrust our views on others. This isn’t about gay rights, because I don’t think anyone has the right to another person’s unwilling service.

If the test of a society’s dedication to liberty is how it treats minority and unpopular views, America is failing right now.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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