It is a common, although frustrating, reality that social movements are often accompanied by resistance and strong adverse reactions. Susan Faludi explores such resistance to the feminist movement in her book “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.” Backlash is often an unpleasant sign that change is happening--that those who enjoy the status quo are getting nervous.
Arizona is providing the nation with the latest dose of backlash in the form of Senate Bill 1062. The bill is intended to amend the state’s current Religious Freedom Restoration Act which would allow business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers if they claim they are doing so for religious reasons. The bill passed both the Arizona state Senate and the House of Representatives, and is now awaiting a decision from Governor Brewer.
Many suspect that Brewer will in fact veto the bill, possibly because of the controversy it has caused nationwide. Protesters rallied last Friday in Phoenix and Tucson, asserting that the bill is discriminatory and urging the governor not to sign it. Three GOP state senators who initially supported the bill are now asking the governor to veto it.
Advocates of the bill seem to be surprised by the amount of protest the bill is receiving and argue that they are trying to protect people’s religious rights. However, many have questioned the need for such a law, as most businesses are already able to refuse service to customers and Arizona state law does not protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. It is hard to see this bill as anything other than an example of backlash against the gains that have made toward securing equal rights for the LGBT community in the United States.
Even if Brewer signs the bill, it is not likely to last long. The battle between “freedom of religion” and discrimination against entire groups of people is not a new one in this country—let us not forget that there was a time in our recent past when laws that discriminated against African Americans were defended with religious arguments.Courts have been moving more and more in the direction of striking down laws that discriminate against the LGBT community so it is hard to imagine that such a blatant example would hold up.
The movement toward social justice is not always a swift or easy one, and battling backlash can feel like trudging through a powerful storm. And just like a tough winter, it can be survived. No matter what Groundhog Phil or the haters have to say about it.
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