I grew up in Arizona, but I’m proud to say I’m not actually from there.
No, really. I was born in Valley Stream, NY, a small (? perhaps? I don’t really know, my earliest memories are actually of living with my mother and grandparents in East Meadow, NY) town on Long Island. My family lived on Long Island until I was about eight years old and my parents (Mom, who I’ve written of briefly here in the past and my stepfather who, if there is a Hell, is hopefully roasting in a specially reserved corner of it) for some reason decided to move across the country to Phoenix, AZ. I’m still a bit hazy on what exactly possessed them to do this, but in retrospect I consider it a bad move and can’t help but feel my East Coast heritage was somewhat robbed from me. Alas. The benefit of hindsight, right?
So, I spent some thirty years in Arizona, the land of Evan Mecham (he was the batshit crazy governor elected in the mid eighties who made his first offical duty the repeal of the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Tool.) and 120+ degree summers. Sure, I could have left some twenty years before i actually did (I moved to Las Vegas in 2004. Small difference, really, but public transoport is better here and the bars are open all night), but by then it was home.
So, Governor Mecham (who was later recalled, by the way) outlawed MLK Day in Arizona. It took years for the state to recognize the holiday again and Arizona became the laughing-stock of the nation as one of the “most racist states” in the early 90s. The state was even the butt of jokes on the Keenan Ivory Waynes show In Living Color a few times back in the day. Ooooh, yes, I was so proud to live in Arizona.
Fast forward a few years (okay, like 20) and Arizona made national news again when the state legislature introduced and passed The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (which was introduced as Senate Bill (SB) 1070 in 2010. This was the state’s infamous anti-illegal immigration law that ” required that state law enforcement officers attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest”, or during a “lawful contact” not specific to any activity when there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is an illegal immigrant” (from the SB 1070 wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arizona_SB_1070).
The “reasonable suspicion” mentioned in the bill essentially boiled down to whether the person was brown enough to be of apparent Hispanic descent. I’ll take racial profiling for $200, Alex?
Well, just when you thought it was safe to visit the American Southwest, Arizona is back and better than ever with a new discriminatory bill that recently passed the state legislation and is on its way to the desk of Governor Jan Brewer. You think the Governor on The Walking Dead is a piece of work? This chick is almost as batshit as good old Ev Mecham was. It’s doubtful that even she will sign this turd into law though.
The new legislation specifically allows business to “refuse service” to anyone based specifically on grounds of religious beliefs, essentially giving people the right to discriminate against anyone they choose, so long as that discrimination is grounded in religion. Naturally, LGBT groups are pissed, and who can blame them?
The most polarizing part of the bill reads, “Exercise of religion’ means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” Huh? This is not simply a law allowing a church, let’s say, the ability to refuse to marry a gay couple (something they shouldn’t have to do, in my opinion), but this would essentially allow, say, a restaurant owner to refuse service to anyone, so long as he can cite a religious reason to refuse such service. Invoke God and you can discriminate against anyone you like. Way to go, Arizona. Is it still legal to have sex with a horse there? Wouldn’t surprise me.
I retract my earlier statement. All things considered, Arizona is a great place to be from.