Moral Low Ground


Arizona Legislature’s 10 Worst Bills of the 2010s

2010 Phoenix protest against SB 1070 anti-'illegal' immigration law. (Photo: Xomiele/Flickr Creative Commons)

2010 Phoenix protest against SB 1070 anti-‘illegal’ immigration law. (Photo: Xomiele/Flickr Creative Commons)

Among progressive circles near and far, Arizona is widely considered a laughing stock for many of the regressive bills drafted– and sometimes passed– by its Republican-controlled legislature.

But to those negatively affected by many of these measures, they are no laughing matter. Last week, both houses of the state legislature approved SB 1062, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which aims to “restore” the right of Arizona business owners to refuse service to anyone whose beliefs, appearance, lifestyle choices, association or even genetics (think LGBT) don’t jibe with their particular religious beliefs, however odious, discriminatory or mythical those may be.

Even some conservative Arizonans are urging Gov. Jan Brewer to veto what is being called the “Arizona anti-gay bill” around the world, arguing– quite correctly– that the measure makes the Grand Canyon State look more like the Grand Pariah State, and could harm its economy. After Phoenix passed SB 1070, another highly controversial bill targeting undocumented immigrants, there were global headlines and boycotts.

So how does SB 1062 stack up against SB 1070 and a host of other eyebrow-raising bills proposed or passed by the Arizona state legislature? Let’s take a look at 10 of the most shocking pieces of legislation considered by lawmakers in one of the nation’s most conservative states over the course of this decade, ranked in order from least to most horrific.

#10– HB 2284 “Forced Pledge of Allegiance” (Status– DEAD): This bill, the brainchild of Tea Party Rep. Steve Smith, would have forced public schools to display a US-made American flag in every classroom, with copies of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution also displayed. Worse, it would have forced all public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag, which contains an unconstitutionally religious reference to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity figure ‘God.’

#9– SB 1026/HB 2582 “Outlaw Karma” (Status– FAILED): The non-existent prospect of an Islamic takeover of the United States, and the subsequent implementation of Sharia law, scares the bejeezus out of plenty of Arizonans. To that end, these bills would have barred courts from “using, implementing, referring or incorporating tenets of any body of sectarian religious law” in judicial rulings (SB 1026) or from using “any statute , tenet or body of law evolving within or binding a specific religious sect or tribe (HB 2582).” The latter measure specifically bans “Sharia, canon law, Halacha and Karma.”

#8– SB 1045/SB1432 “Papers to Pee” (Status– TABLED): This bill, which has been tabled, targeted transgender people who wish to use the restrooms that match their gender identities, making it a crime to use facilities other than those designated for his or her birth sex. SB 1045 was sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, a vocal supporter of the “religious freedom” bill currently raising eyebrows and ire. Fortunately, the ignorant and discriminatory measure was flushed down the toilet, where it belongs.

#7– HB 2800 “Defund Planned Parenthood” (Status– SIGNED INTO LAW, STRUCK DOWN): The state legislature passed, and Gov. Brewer signed into law, a measure which stripped state funding from Planned Parenthood or any other group that performs abortions, even though existing state law and the Hyde Amendment already banned the use of state or federal funds for such purposes. Planned Parenthood of Arizona, which provides a wide range of medical services to women and girls, especially low-income residents, said preventive health care for thousands of women would be jeopardized by the measure, which was struck down by a US district court as well as by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

#6– HB 2305 “Voter Suppression Act” (Status– SIGNED INTO LAW): This broad bill limits early voting rights, restricts citizens use of ballot initiatives and limits voter choice by making it more difficult for independent, third-party candidates to run for office. It also makes it a crime for volunteer political workers to collect early ballots from voters and turn them in at polling stations.

#5– HB 2281 “Ethnic Studies Ban” (Status– SIGNED INTO LAW): Many Latinos, both in and outside of Arizona, believe the Republican-controlled state is waging a war against them. Hot on the heels of SB 1070, the “Show Me Your Papers” law, came HB 2281, which prohibits public schools, including universities, from offering courses that advocate ethnic solidarity or cater to specific ethnic groups. Under the law, which critics claim aims to whitewash historical injustices committed against Latinos, Native Americans, blacks and others, Tucson public schools actually banned Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as somehow subversive.

#4– HB 2467 “US Loyalty Oath” (Status– DIED IN COMMITTEE): This neo-McCarthyesque turd is the brainfart of Tea Party Rep. Bob Thorpe. The bill would have forced all graduating high school seniors to recite the following pledge, or forfeit their diplomas:

“I, ___, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties, so help me God.”

So chilling, and so unconstitutional, on so many levels.

#3– SB 1359 “Lying to Women about Abortions” (Status– SIGNED INTO LAW): This bill, which was co-introduced by the ubiquitously regressive Rep. Kavanagh, was designed to protect physicians from wrongful birth lawsuits, since parents whose children are born with disabilities or deformities sometimes sue their doctors. However, the law actually permits doctors to withhold information about the health of a fetus if that information would make a patient more likely to abort the unborn child. Supporters of the law argue that doctors can still be held accountable if there is evidence of wrongdoing. Apparently lying to women in order to prevent them from having abortions does not count as “wrongdoing.”

#2– SB 1070 “Show Me Your Papers” (Status– SIGNED INTO LAW; MOSTLY AFFIRMED): This bill, which introduced the world to Arizona’s regressive brand of reactionary politics, sparked global outrage and boycotts of the gorgeous Grand Canyon State. At the time of its passage, it was the most draconian anti-undocumented immigration law in the nation, although Alabama has since passed an even worse law no doubt inspired by Arizona. SB 1070 affirms that it is a crime for any foreigner in the state more than 30 days to not have their immigration papers on their person at all times. It also requires law enforcement officers to determine the legal status of anyone they suspect may be in the US illegally. It imposes penalties on anyone who shelters, transports or hires an undocumented immigrant.

Critics claim the law encourages racial profiling and was racially motivated; the latter allegation was proved by emails from SB 1070’s author, Republican state Rep. Russell Pearce, who compared undocumented immigrants to lepers and Islamic terrorists and opined that they are turning America into a “fractured nightmare of social unrest and poverty.”

In June 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Arizona v. United States that the provision requiring law enforcement to verify immigration status during lawful stops was constitutional, although the high court struck down sections requiring immigrants to carry proof of legal residence, allowing police to make warrantless arrests, and a provision barring employment in the state without federal work authorization.

#1– SB 1062 “No Gays Allowed” (Status– PASSED BY LEGISLATURE): The latest bill out of Phoenix to make headlines is also the worst. Even Republicans who voted in favor of the highly discriminatory measure have joined the worldwide chorus urging Gov. Brewer to veto it. The Orwellian-titled “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” legalizes religious-based discrimination against, well, just about anyone who a business owner says offends the tenets of his or her faith. It’s not just LGBT people who are in danger of losing rights; an evangelical Christian might refuse to serve a teenager pregnant out of wedlock, an Orthodox Jew could turn away gentiles– or any number of other countless possibilities.

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