“The land of the free, the home of the brave*” I must have missed the lyric in the United States national anthem that explains the invisible asterisk laying out the disclaimers and limitations that come along with being a U.S. citizen. Because more and more, politicians and ordinary citizens alike are attempting to manipulate U.S. policy in undue ways that allow them to discriminate against fellow citizens. And in some cases, they are getting away with it.
Saturday marks the deadline for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto or pass Senate Bill 1062, which would allow businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians in Arizona. Advocates of the bill are claiming “religious freedom” as their justification for this heinous legislation.
On Monday, Uganda’s president signed a bill imposing harsh sentences for homosexual acts – including life sentences in prison for some – into law. This abhorrent legislation has incited anger and frustration in many, including Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It’s almost inconceivable to think of such a thing happening in any Western country. Or is it?
While SB 1062 is nowhere near as extreme as Uganda’s anti-gay measures, the core of the issue is the same. The value of freedom is being distorted by people who are just looking for a way to justify the fact that they are intolerant bigots.
Freedom is what the United States is founded upon, and it’s the key to what makes America the magnificent land of opportunity that it is. But what is the price we’re paying for unchecked freedom? If it means allowing people to treat others with less than the dignity and respect they deserve simply because they have a seriously warped sense of reality, I don’t want any part of it. The freedom to be a chauvinist is not one that any American should support – but many do.
In SB 1062, freedom is not being defended. Instead, freedom is being squelched – the freedom of individuals who want nothing more than to be able to visit any restaurant, store or other business they want regardless of the sex of the person they go home to at the end of the day.
The irony surrounding the fact that people use religion – you know, the thing that boasts a loving, forgiving, accepting deity as its central belief – to rationalize hatred and discrimination is almost laughable. You could use botched politics, outdated social norms, distorted scientific data and any number of other tactics – as so many have before – to support this ghastly bill. Read up on national policy from every year up until 2003 for endless sources of anti-gay propaganda touting the supposed dangers of homosexual activity – there’s plenty of inspiration there. But please don’t tout religion as your excuse.
While there is strong opposition to SB 1062, and while the bill is exclusive to Arizona, the problem is not exclusive to that bill or that state. We should all be ashamed that something like this could happen in our country.
On the bright side, there has been overwhelming advocacy on behalf of companies like Apple and American Airlines for Brewer to veto the bill. Even some religious leaders said the bill was not in line with the concept of religious freedom. But the mere fact that these types of measures are still being considered is disheartening.
So, Gov. Brewer, and all American politicians who support LGBT persecution, this is 2014. More importantly, this is America. In a wealthy, educated society like ours, it is not acceptable to bully fellow Americans based on issues that the government has no business regulating. Remember when businesses were legally allowed to refuse service to African Americans?
Remember how ignorant those people look today? When future Americans look back on 2014, I hope they see a time of prosperity and equality, not a period of oppression and inequality that they shake their heads at. America, if we want to be truly free, let’s open our hearts, and more importantly, our minds, to the fact that people are people, love is love, and freedom is freedom; and if you don’t like it, you have the freedom to leave.