Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Don’t abandon Arizona to right-wing extremist Republicans

2014-02-27T07:30:00Z 2014-02-27T10:23:06Z Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Don’t abandon Arizona to right-wing extremist RepublicansSarah Garrecht Gassen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Arizona Senate Bill 1062 was not a defense of the religious. The legislation, which would have permitted discrimination based on religious belief, was a weapon whipped up in a desperate grasp for power by those who interpret change as a personal assault.

To state Sen. Al Melvin, who has been milking this for all the attention he can get, and his fellow SB 1062-supporting compatriots in fear: The world is not all about you.

But if your world is bifurcated into winners and losers — a gain for one requires a loss for another — rather than a community of equals, then it makes sense to fear a changing world. It must be scary.

And the world is changing. The dominance by right-wing conservative Republicans who identify themselves as Christians is no longer guaranteed. Courts, religious leaders, civil society, popular culture, perhaps even their family members and friends, are recognizing that it is wrong to deny gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans their right to equal treatment.

Men have loved men, and women have loved women for eons. People who are transgendered have always existed. People of different colors, nationalities, cultures and faiths have fallen in love and made lives together — and many have been abused, shunned, shamed and worse in the name of “righteousness.”

But people have found ways to be who they are, even within the confines of their time and place. Humans are humans. We find a way to find each other.

Individual and systematic maltreatment based on biological traits, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, isn’t a relic of the past, but today people are refusing to go along with the shame, hatred and sense of “we’re normal and you’re not” that has enabled ingrained discrimination and allowed the powerful to cocoon themselves against the diversity of life.

Even with Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of the bill, the work for equality is far from complete, but it’s making progress.

Senate Bill 1062 and the versions being pushed across the country are evidence, in an ironic way, of successful steps toward equality across the country. Of course, they’re also evidence that conservative political puppeteers need to create a rallying issue to get their base riled up — and few fears are as effective as the gays-are-gonna-get-you ploy.

Viewed in this context it’s easier to understand that the forces behind these discrimination efforts aren’t thinking small — they want to push back progress and hide in the comfort they constructed. Gay people, straight people who don’t dislike gay people, people of different faiths, or no faith, people who don’t fit the conservative Christian Republican mold — we’re not welcome.

I wonder if when they hear talk of boycotts or people being so disgusted with our Republican majority in the Legislature that they want to move away, that proponents don’t say to themselves, “Good, we don’t want you here anyway. Get out. You’re not welcome here. We don’t want your kind.”

So what do we do with that? Do we give them Arizona?

I say no.

And I hope you do, too.

But this is a long-range thing. It’s not all signs and flags and protests. It’s about voting in primary elections. It’s about finding and actively supporting candidates who are interested in innovation and who think instead of react.

It’s about finding people who know that the threat of losing the almighty dollar isn’t the only, or nearly the best, reason to protect civil rights.

As an Arizonan I’ve felt the urge to make sure people in the rest of the country — and the world — know that the bizarre state Legislature doesn’t speak for me or everyone who lives here.

That’s a message Arizonans also need to affirm to one another: Don’t waste your energy being embarrassed. Take action.

Instead of boycotting Arizona, or moving away, encourage people to come, stay, spend money in places and with businesses that support civil rights. Work for a better state. Don’t let the reactionary extremists push us out.

Don’t abdicate to fear.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen writes opinion for the Arizona Daily Star. Email her at sgassen@azstarnet.com and follow her on Facebook.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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