In the latest dispatch from America's creeping theocracy, the Arizona House has just passed HB 2153 -- a Republican-sponsored bill creating a special "right" to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religion. Essentially, as I've written before, it makes "Because Jesus" a valid excuse for denying services and public accommodations to queers in the Grand Canyon State.
The vote was 33-27. All but three House Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
Debate over HB 2153 was intense, with Democratic Minority Leader Chad Campbell repeatedly excoriating his Republican colleagues for pushing the measure through. "This is a direct attack on [the LGBT] community," he said.
Noting the GOP's apparent zeal to protect religion-based anti-LGBT bigotry, Campbell reminded lawmakers of another form of oppression that was once justified by religion: slavery. And like slavery and other forms of prejudice, Campbell said, our society will one day discard anti-LGBT bigotry and be ashamed it was ever written into law.
"Someday this [bill] will be irrelevant," he said. "In the future we are going to look back on this bill and people are going to laugh... they're going to be disgusted by what we endorsed today."
Pointing out that LGBT people are not protected under Arizona's current nondiscrimination law, Rep. Campbell said that both the HB 2153's intent and its effect are crystal clear: "The bottom line is, this is an attack on the gay community of this state," he said. "This is a direct attack on the LGBT community... [and] the result of this bill is discrimination. Period."
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, said that as a result of the bill, LGBT servicemembers and veterans living on Arizona's seven military bases would lose important rights and protections as soon as they went off-base and stepped onto Arizona soil. Rep. Demion Clinco, the only out gay member of the Arizona House, revealed that he knows the pain of homophobic hatred firsthand: he was assaulted in high school for being gay. Clinco said he was "disgusted" by this legislation.
And Democratic Rep. Victoria Steele read anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller's famous poem "First they came..."
But as David Badash reports at The New Civil Rights Movement, supporters of the discriminatory measure claimed that they -- not the LGBT people who are targeted by this bill -- are the ones being persecuted:
[Those] opposed, like Rep. John Kavanagh, falsely claimed that "people are using the cloak of discrimination to persecute religious people."
"I'm sick and tired of the majority being trampled on by the minority," Rep. Steve Smith said. "I won't stand for it. We're the bad people. Why? Because I dare to wear my religion on my sleeve?"
More details, and the bill's next steps, after the jump.