ALL EYES ON ARIZONA

After strong public outcry, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062 on Wednesday, Feb. 26.  The Governor made her decision several days after the bill passed in the Arizona legislature by a narrow majority of 33 to 27.

SB 1062, introduced in early January by Republican senator Steve Yarbrough, was a measure to amend the pre-existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The alterations would have changed the definition of a “person” to include corporations and other institutions, permitting them to exercise similar rights as individual people. 

The most inciting revision to the bill, however, was its right-to-refuse service legislation. SB 1062 stated that “‘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…” Citizens worried that business owners would use the new legislation as an excuse to deny service to people who were in violation of their religion. At greatest risk were those in the LGBTQ community. 

As the bill gained national attention, it worsened Arizona’s already poor reputation for being discriminatory. Dubbed the “Hate State,” Arizona has come under public scrutiny before for SB 1070, with Governor Brewer coincidentally at the forefront of that as well.

Governor Brewer signed the anti-illegal immigration measure Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, otherwise known as SB 1070, in 2010. The legislation was criticized for permitting racial profiling because law enforcement officials were permitted to demand registration documents even if an individual was not partaking in explicit illegal activity if the officers had “reasonable suspicion” that the individual was an illegal immigrant. 

Becoming a national controversy, the case reached the Supreme Court in 2012 in Arizona v. United States. The judge ultimately ruled to uphold the checking of immigration statuses during law enforcement stops, though other measures were altered. The recent drama surrounding SB 1060 has not helped our case. The bill, even with its veto, has further sullied Arizona’s reputation by adding “bigoted” to the ever-growing list of negative Arizona labels. Scripps student Isabel Carter-Kahn ’17 from Scottsdale, Ariz., commented that “Every article and news clip I’ve seen has that air of ‘There goes Arizona again!’ which is a bit... embarrassing isn’t the right word, maybe disheartening.”

The negative publicity does more than simply bruise the state’s ego though; it threatens Arizona’s recovering economy. Many companies are hesitant to bring their business to Arizona because of the state’s controversial politics. Apple Inc. strongly opposed to the bill and the National Football League threatened to move next year’s Super Bowl out of Glendale if the bill passed. 

These are not the first instances of protest against the state. In the past, large music artists such as Cypress Hill and Pitbull have cancelled their concerts in protest of Arizona legislation. Arizona’s economy then suffers severe consequences as the state loses opportunities to generate revenue and create new jobs. Negative citizen perceptions nationwide are also a detriment to the Arizona economy because tourism rates drop. This is a severe dilemma for the state, which relies heavily on tourism revenue during the winter months and during baseball Spring Training. 

Thankfully, amidst all of this chaos, Arizona proves to have a strong redeeming quality: its residents. Citizens came together statewide in objection to the bill. 

Peter Northfelt, a sophomore honors English Literature major at Arizona State University, noted that there was at least one protest on campus and many more happening downtown at the state capitol. He also commented that even business owners, whom the bill was supposedly protecting, put up signs that read “right to refuse service to AZ legislators.” Claire Bacon (PZ ’15) from Flagstaff, Ariz., also remarked that she has friends who protested in Flagstaff and Tucson, Ariz.

As a college student from Arizona who was in another state while all of this was happening, I felt cheated. College seems to be the pinnacle period of a person’s social justice career, yet I was stuck in Claremont while my fellow Phoenicians were on the streets fighting against discrimination.  

Other Arizonans at the 5Cs appeared to be equally restricted; however, social media provided an outlet for us to make an impact even while we were hundreds of miles away.

While SB 1062 proves that some biased fanatics still remain in the Arizona legislature, the overwhelming citizen response demonstrates that as a whole, Arizona is shifting as a state from consistently fighting against national advancement to one that is beginning to slowly join in the progressive movement.