Although Arizona Governor Jan Brewer eventually vetoed the hotly-contested bill that would have given businesses the right to use “religious freedom” in a court of law, the bill was completely misrepresented as legislation that would legalize discrimination.
The media’s attempt at improving their ratings by stirring up maximum controversy worked, and worked well. The legislation was widely referred to as the “anti-gay” bill, described as a piece of legislation that would essentially give businesses a license to discriminate against homosexuals.
Naturally, instead of reading the actual text of the bill, emotionally-charged people jumped on-board the media bandwagon and began fighting against a bill that was entirely misunderstood – at best, and intentionally misrepresented – at worst.
This bill did not legalize discrimination. In truth, the bill was much more simple and instituted very little actual change to discrimination lawsuits in the state.
Arizona law allows certain religious institutions to claim “religious freedom” as a legal defense in a court of law. AZ 1062 would have expanded the use of “religious freedom” to include individuals and businesses – or any legal entity recognized by the state of Arizona. This bill would have equalized legal religious protections.
Removing the emotional element from the debate, this bill was in no way “anti-gay”. If Governor Brewer signed the bill into law, businesses could still get sued. The new law would allow them to legally use the “religious freedom” defense, but the decision remains in the hands of the jury. Guilty verdicts remain very possible.
Like our tax system, loopholes exist today in current discrimination law that already allow any business to discriminate against any person, for any reason. However, regardless of established law, discrimination lawsuits are expensive and rare. No business wants to spend months fighting off discrimination lawsuits with high-priced attorneys and negative publicity.
Discrimination is bad for business.
This was a hotly-contested, politically-polarizing, completely and utterly meaningless piece of legislation that successfully got people’s attention for, honestly, no good reason.
The law did not give businesses a license to discriminate. Businesses could still get sued. Businesses would still need to spend resources for defense attorneys in court. This law MAY have given the business a slightly better shot at winning, but the money it takes for a business to fight off discrimination lawsuits remains steep. AZ 1062 would have removed none of that, and regardless of the legal outcome, businesses never truly “win” a discrimination lawsuit. The free market ultimately wins that decision.
Law or no law, no business wants to get sued, period.