Editorial: Legalizing discrimination

“We don’t serve your kind.” That sounds like a statement from racially or ethnically segregated times in our history, doesn’t it?

Today, such a statement reflects an attitude that wouldn’t be allowed to stand unchallenged, in public or in our courts or legislatures — if for no other reason, because it runs smack up against the Declaration of Independence and its declaration that “... all men are created equal ...”

Sadly, this hasn’t prevented some elected representatives from taking steps to create exceptions and legalize discrimination.

Arizona is the latest example of this disturbing trend. Last week, lawmakers passed a bill that would allow businesses in the state to deny gays and lesbians service, provided the proprietors can prove that it’s based upon their religious beliefs. The bill now sits with Gov. Jan Brewer, who has said she is in no hurry to make a decision about signing this particular piece of legislation.

Apparently what got certain groups in Arizona thinking along these lines was a court case in neighboring New Mexico where the state’s Supreme Court — quite rightly, in our opinion — ruled that a photographer who refused to take a gay couple’s wedding pictures was breaking the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

So Arizona legislators decided to send a message — not one about religious freedom — but about their opposition to gay marriage.

In doing so, however, they created a the bill that legalizes bigotry and reopens the door to discriminating against people based upon their ethnicity, race, religion, etc., not just about two people of the same sex wanting to get married.

Arizona’s politicians should have been smart enough to see that such legislation based upon personal beliefs, and not equal protection under the law, has no business in our nation.

Lawmakers only had to see what happened during the fight for civil rights, including what took place 50 years ago, to see that discriminatory laws were not the answer.

Nor is using your religious beliefs to justify such discrimination.

We hope Gov. Brewer sits on the bill until it expires.

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