Jan Brewer

Mississippi Tries to Redefine Southern Hospitality With Proposed 'Right to Discriminate' Bill

The following is a guest blog from Zane Ballard, a Fellow in affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young People For program.

In spite of the nationwide outcry over Arizona’s SB 1062, the “Turn Away the Gays” bill vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer last month, some far-right legislators across the country have continued to claim that gay rights present a threat to their religious freedom. In my state of Mississippi, conservative legislators have pushed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 2681), which is similar to the vetoed Arizona law. When the Mississippi State Senate passed SB 2681 on January 31, some senators said they did not even realize its implications. Mississippi Sen. David Blount, for example, said he “was not aware…of this intention or possible result” when he voted – that is, the result of legalizing discrimination.

The version of the bill passed by the Senate would have allowed businesses to deny service to individuals based upon the belief that “state action or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person's right to exercise of religion.” It would have allowed broad, almost unchecked discrimination by any business that claimed its “exercise of religion has been burdened or is likely to be burdened” by serving a customer. This could have included refusal to serve LGBT persons, people of color, or those of non-Christian or no faith, all on the basis of an individual exercising their religion.

Yesterday the discriminatory bill faced a major setback when the House voted to replace most of the text of the bill with language establishing a committee to study the issue. The study committee will be examining the bill closely in search of any possible way that the language could be usable without promoting discrimination.  But according to the Mississippi ACLU, “Senate Bill 2681 remains a looming threat. The results of the study committee that was established by the amendment that passed the House today may go to conference. If the conference committee reaches an agreement, its report must be approved by both houses by April 2nd.”

In the meantime, advocates on the ground in Mississippi will continue to watch closely as the process unfolds. Last week, I joined students from Mississippi State University and Millsaps College, representatives from Equality Mississippi, and other concerned Mississippians on the steps of the state capitol to demonstrate against the bill. Protestors had also planned to be present during a House Judiciary Committee meeting that day, in hopes that they would be duly represented by those they had elected. However, these concerned Mississippians were unable to sit in on the committee meeting, which ended seven minutes before it was even scheduled to even begin. 

Even though the bill has been stalled, the work to keep this discriminatory law off the books continues. The Gulf Coast Lesbian & Gay Community Center in Mississippi has organized an action on the steps of the state capitol for March 26 at 12 pm, to once again draw attention to the bill and to highlight the general lack of protections for LGBT people in our state. In the wake of momentum generated in response to SB 2681, it would not be surprising to see the pro-equality energy of those in the state carrying over into other channels. This could include support for non-discrimination ordinances in cities across Mississippi, or even a statewide piece of legislation preventing discrimination and preserving the real ideal of southern hospitality.
 

PFAW

Why the Defeat of Arizona’s “Right to Discriminate” Bill Matters

Ryan Hurst is the membership services program coordinator for affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.

Last week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a bill that would have made it legal for businesses and employers to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people if it was due to a “deeply held religious belief.” Many Arizonans and national leaders on both sides of the aisle vehemently opposed it, including members of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network.  US Representative Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09) and Arizona State Senate Democratic Leader Anna Tovar spoke out on MSNBC. Tovar also said in a statement:

SB 1062 permits discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. With the express consent of Republicans in this legislature, many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation.

Supporters of SB 1062 and legislation like it have argued that it is necessary to protect the “right” of business owners to deny services to LGBT Americans. Why does fighting this flawed assumption matter? Why would LGBT Americans want to patronize a business that is trying to discriminate against them?

It matters because our values define who we are as a people.  Do we want to be an America that permits discrimination because we disagree with someone? An America that legislates away the dignity of a group of our fellow citizens? The desire to have and feel dignity is something that reaches into our very core. It is why African American students refused to get up from lunch counters during the civil rights movement. Though the circumstances behind those heroic acts were different, at least one of the core motivating factors is the same – the desire to have dignity and be valued as a human being.

We as a nation decided to set precedent as a result of the civil rights movement, that we would not allow ourselves to be defined by hate and ignorance, and that discrimination based on race, gender, disability, national origin, and religion would not be tolerated. Why would we hold love to a different standard? Like religion, it is deeply personal and central to who we are, and our freedom regarding that area of our lives is recognized as basic to the very concept of liberty. And we can no more change who we love than change our race, sex, or national origin.

Unfortunately Arizona was not alone in proposing a bill that would allow businesses to deny services to LGBT Americans. In all, 12 states had similar bills simultaneously working their way through their state legislatures. In the fallout from SB 1062, most of these states quietly killed these bills with little fanfare. But a few states like Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota are still considering similar legislation, and Oregon is even considering a ballot initiative.

It is time for us as a country to be bold and unapologetic about our rejection of discrimination. It is important for us to have conversations about why our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and neighbors and friends deserve dignity and equality. We must not be afraid to speak out in opposition to these bills if they are introduced in our state, and we must exercise our right to vote by removing elected officials from office that choose to support legislation that diminishes the dignity of others.
 

PFAW

“Rebranded” GOP Votes for 50th Time to Undermine Obamacare

Today House Republicans led by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) voted to delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. In case you haven’t been keeping track, this is the House GOP’s 50th vote to dismantle Obamacare.

In a speech last week at a DNC event, President Obama joked,

“You know what they say: 50th time is the charm. Maybe when you hit your 50th repeal vote, you will win a prize. Maybe if you buy 50 repeal votes, you get one free.” 

On Monday, in the wake of Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to veto her state’s anti-gay “freedom to discriminate” bill, People For the American Way president Michael Keegan wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed that we are continually asked to believe the “new, no-nonsense Republican Party” has finally taken to heart the “dangers of embracing extremism.” However, he writes:

“…there seems to be a Grand Canyon-like gap between what everyone knows the Republican Party should do and what they actually do. Time after time, we see that they just can't help themselves. We all know the embarrassing, crazy uncle who shows up at the family reunion. It seems like all of those crazy uncles have now banded together to control the Republican Party.”

And with their 50th vote to undermine Obamacare, it seems pretty clear that the Republican Party isn’t going to be able to rein in those crazy uncles anytime soon.

 

PFAW

PFAW Applauds Veto of Arizona Anti-Gay Discrimination Bill

WASHINGTON – In response to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to veto Senate Bill 1062, a measure that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers, People For the American Way president Michael Keegan released the following statement:

“Almost four years after Arizona shocked the country with its anti-immigrant ‘show me your papers’ law, yesterday Governor Brewer avoided making her state the national leader, once again, in state-sponsored discrimination.

“In Arizona and across the country, Americans can see through the Right’s continued attempts to cloak anti-gay bigotry in the language of First Amendment rights. We hope that the pushback Arizona received this week will be a message, loud and clear, to the states with similar bills pending. Americans don’t want to live in a country where businesses have free rein to post a ‘No Gays’ sign.”

In the past week, tens of thousands of PFAW members and activists spoke out and urged Governor Brewer to veto the bill.

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Tea Party Nation: Brewer's Veto Imposed 'Slavery,' Mandatory Penis Cakes For 'Homosexual Weddings'

Judson Phillips, president of Tea Party Nation, is a little upset about Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision last night to veto a bill that would have expanded the ability of business owners to discriminate against LGBT people and others.

“Tyranny is on the march,” Phillips declares in a piece on the TPN website that he also emailed to members of the group, adding that business owners who are not allowed to discriminate against gays and lesbians are “slaves” to the “great liberal state,” aided by “French Republicans” like Brewer.

“The left and the homosexual lobby are both pushing slavery using the Orwellian concepts of ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusiveness,’” he writes.

Phillips then wonders if business owners will be forced to “create a cake for a homosexual wedding that has a giant phallic symbol on it,” “create pastries for a homosexual wedding in the shape of genitallia [sic],” or “photograph a homosexual wedding where the participants decide they want to be nude or engage in sexual behavior.”

The left and the homosexual lobby in America went into overdrive to kill this bill.  Conservatives rallied for this bill and Governor Brewer opted for cowardice instead of courage.

Why is this bill so important and what did it mean for not only Arizona but America?
The issue can be boiled down to one word: Freedom.

A free man or woman controls their labor.  A slave has no control over their labor.  A free man or woman decides who they will work for and under what conditions.  The slave cannot.

The left and the homosexual lobby are both pushing slavery using the Orwellian concepts of “tolerance” and “inclusiveness.”

Immediately the left and the homosexual lobby went into high dudgeon.  Arizona’s SB1062 must be defeated because Americans really are no longer free and must be forced to serve the great liberal state, regardless of their beliefs.

The storm rose against Arizona and Jan Brewer proved she was no Ronald Reagan.  She has an honored place in the ranks of the French Republicans.

The left loves to come up with absurd hypotheticals to scream that there must be compliance with their fascism, so how about a couple from our side.  

Should a devote baker be required to create a cake for a homosexual wedding that has a giant phallic symbol on it or should a baker be required to create pastries for a homosexual wedding in the shape of genitallia [sic]?  Or should a photographer be required to photograph a homosexual wedding where the participants decide they want to be nude or engage in sexual behavior?  Would they force a Jewish photographer to work a Klan or Nazi event? How about forcing a Muslim caterer to work a pork barbeque dinner?

...

SB1062 is a bigger story than simply the story of a cowardly governor who has no core beliefs.
SB1062 is the story of liberalism at work in America.

Liberalism is the paranoid belief that leftists have that somewhere, someone may be thinking for themselves.  It is the tyrannical belief that no deviation in belief is allowed from the decreed orthodoxy.

It is the antithesis of liberty.

It is tyranny on the march.
 

Pressure Mounts for Brewer to Veto Anti-Gay Law

Ever since Arizona’s legislature passed a bill that would allow business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers, pressure has been mounting on Governor Jan Brewer to veto the law.

The bill has drawn sharp criticism from LGBT and human rights groups (in addition to quick witted pizza shop owners and crewmembers of the Starship Enterprise) and now GOP politicians are lining up to call for it to be blocked. Last week, the state’s junior senator, Jeff Flake, tweeted his opposition to the law. This morning he was joined by the state's senior senator, John McCain. As if that weren't enough, TPM reports that state senator Steve Pierce, who voted for the legislation, is reversing himself and calling on Brewer to issue a veto.

It’s clear that the issue isn’t going away soon. Despite the already embarrassing attention that Arizona has received since the law was passed, Governor Brewer still has the opportunity to avoid adding another black mark on her state’s recent history. Millions of Americans are watching closely.

PFAW

Sex, Lies, and Bloodlust: What the Values Voter Summit Tells us About the Religious Right and the Republican Party

During this past weekend’s Values Voter Summit, the annual family reunion of the far right, RWW posted many memorable video highlights. What does it all tell us about the Religious Right and today’s Republican Party? First are foremost, Republican leaders are unwilling to distance themselves from the far-right fringes of their base, especially in an election year in which conservative evangelical voters are not tremendously excited about Mitt Romney. Romney took a pass this year, and it’s not hard to understand why. Last year, organizers maliciously put him on stage right before the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who had ridiculed Romney’s Mormonism. A supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry denounced Mormonism as a cult, and the flap over Romney’s faith was the dominant story coming out of the gathering. It was much safer to let Paul Ryan represent the ticket this year, and to have other speakers like Rick Santorum and Rick Scarborough ensure evangelicals that voting for Romney was in fact a good thing. Romney did send a tepidly-received video, which seemed almost an afterthought. What is motivating these activists is not enthusiasm for Romney but their hostility toward the Obama administration.

Arizona Prison Privatization: Ideology and Influence Trump Evidence

At 6:00 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Arizona officials announced the granting of a multi-million dollar contract to Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison giant, for the operation of one thousand medium security prison beds.  The grant was not exactly a big surprise; CCA had hired as lobbyists people close to Gov. Jan Brewer.

What should be more surprising is that officials are arguing with a straight face that the deal is good for taxpayers, in spite of evidence to the contrary.  As the Arizona Republic reported,

The contract calls for CCA to be paid a per diem rate of $65.43 per bed. The most recent information available shows the average daily cost per inmate in a state-run medium-custody facility in 2010 was $48.42. The award to CCA is 35percent more than what it cost the state to house and monitor inmates two years ago.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, Arizona officials have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to tap taxpayers in order to advance an anti-government ideology and boost the profits of a company that is generous with its spending on lobbying and campaign contributions. 

 

People For the American Way Foundation’s recent report “Predatory Privatization” noted that private prisons in Arizona cost the state as much as $7 million more in 2009 and 2010 than units operated by the state department of corrections.  The report also noted CCA’s aggressive expansion plans:

Earlier this year, CCA wrote to officials in 48 states offering to buy and run prisons if states would guarantee a 90 percent occupancy rate. A coalition of religious groups urged state officials to turn down the offer, which the groups said would create an incentive for mass incarceration and “be costly to the moral strength of your state” as well as costly financially.

 

 

PFAW Foundation

Jan Brewer on SB 1070: Jesus 'Got Me Here'

According to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the aftermath of SB 1070 was hardest on… Jan Brewer. In an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Brewer defended her harsh and partly unconstitutional anti-immigration law SB 1070, and even cited Jesus. She told Brody that she felt politicians turned on her after she signed the discriminatory, racial profiling bill into law, noting that the aftermath was “tough” on her and she would sit on her patio and think “Jesus hold my hand, you got me here, now you’ve got to get me through all of this.”

Watch:

The signing of SB 1070 was a very difficult time for me personally because I knew immediately that although we monitored the bill and amended the bill in the legislature that it was going to be a lightning rod, however, I didn’t know or realize at the time just how big of a lightning rod it was going to be. But I knew that they would be out there, some of the political pundits and elected officials calling Arizona racist and bigots. And they turned on me, they really turned on me harshly and it hurts. And when you see protesters saying and doing and presenting things out there that represent things that you just absolutely know aren’t true, that was tough. Many a night I would sit on my patio and think, Jesus hold my hand, you got me here, now you’ve got to get me through all of this.

PFAW Statement: Federal Judge Blocks Portions of Arizona’s SB1070

A federal judge today blocked some of the most controversial provisions in the draconian anti-immigrant law Arizona’s governor signed into law in April.

African American Ministers in Action Statement on Arizona Immigration Decision

A federal judge today blocked some of the some of the most controversial provisions in the draconian anti-immigrant law Arizona’s governor signed into law in April.

Questions and Answers About the Boycott of Arizona

Questions and answers about SB 1070, Arizona state legislation that will in practice lead to racial profiling as accepted police practice.

Civil Rights Groups Announce Boycott of Arizona

In the wake of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to sign SB 1070, state legislation that will in practice lead to racial profiling as accepted police practice, the undersigned organizations join a growing number of groups across the country in taking a stand against this radical law.

Arizona Governor Signs Harsh New Anti-Immigrant Law

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed an anti-immigrant law that will allow Arizona police to arrest anyone who they suspect of being in the country illegally and who can't immediately prove otherwise.

Arizona Republicans Use Rhetoric of Fear to Push Through Draconian Immigration Law

The Arizona Senate yesterday passed one of the harshest immigration enforcement laws in the country. The bill, written by right-wing state senator Russell Pearce, would allow police to arrest anyone who could not immediately prove they are in the country legally. Despite criticism from civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups, the bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Jan Brewer.

Michael B. Keegan, President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement:

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