On the defeat of Arizona’s SB1062 and the importance of local voices

So this week Arizona’s governor vetoed SB1062, which would have allowed businesses to choose who to serve based on their personal beliefs, and which would especially have made it easy to refuse to deny service (in restaurants, in medical offices, in countless other places) based on sexual orientation, because of the lack of other anti-discrimination legislation that would have protected the LGBT community in the face of that bill.

As one does when one’s elected representative does the right thing–even if I didn’t personally elect her, and even if I disagree with most of her decisions–I thanked her, both on social media and with a call and letter to her office. (I’d also written and called, earlier in the week, to register my opposition to the bill.)

A few people suggested that thanking Governor Brewer was inappropriate, essentially because, they said, she only vetoed the bill at all because national pressures shamed her into it.

Well, actually, our governor did veto a similar bill about a year ago with far less national attention focused on the matter, but never mind that … national pressures did play a huge role in the veto of this bill, and we’re grateful for them. But local pressures played a huge role too. So did the fact that not only Arizona liberals but also many Arizona conservatives outside the state legislature–including both our U.S. senators–as well as Arizona interests such as the Phoenix economic council (hardly a liberal stronghold) urged her strongly to consider a veto. Pretty much everyone–well, not everyone, but huge huge numbers of people–in Arizona outside the legislature, with a few exceptions, was urging a veto.

I say this because I think there’s a tendency, when a conservative state does something deeply troubling, for the liberals in less conservative states to see it as their job to “save” us. And that’s both true and not true.

I’ve had liberal friends in other states offer to write editorials to my own papers for me and sign my name to them, under the assumption that this was something we, I don’t know, just couldn’t do this for ourselves. I’ve had them come here to monitor our polls, not asking whether there were those already here in sympathy with her views who might be perfectly capable of doing so. Just recently I had a friend in a liberal state actually tell me proudly how in her state, the Sanctuary movement was ever-so-much-better, because in her state, everyone supported it and there was no need for secrets. I managed to get my jaw up off the floor long enough to explain to her that actually, Sanctuary began in Arizona. And over and over again, I have friends who share my political views ask me, directly and indirectly, “How can you live there?”

I remember learning, as an adult, that during the civil rights protests of the 1960s, Mississippians and Alabamans had mixed feelings when northerners headed south to fight the injustices there–because national action did make a huge difference, but the south also had their own home-grown activist community already there protesting before the northerners arrived, and that got forgotten a little as outsiders came in and took over. I was startled at the time–being from a northeastern state, I’d been raised on stories of how we did save those less right-minded than us–but after a couple decades in Arizona, I get it.

We want your help. We need your help, and we value it. But we’re not incompetent children who are standing by idle waiting for you to swoop in and save us. (Did you know we were protesting the legislative shutdown of our Mexican studies program for months before the national media finally noticed?) We’re activists, too, and of course we’re working to change things. I’m not working nearly as hard as many … mostly I’m writing letters these days … but since moving to Arizona, I’ve regularly met people who through the years have put their lives and livelihoods and freedom on the line to do the right thing–far more than I ever met living in the northeast. When I’m asked by those who share my views how I can live here, more and more often I want to ask them how they can live their comfortable lives–lives where they don’t have to fight for or put anything on the line for their beliefs, or have them questioned by friends or neighbors or acquaintances, or even learn that most basic skill of how to get along with people who disagree with them–and then ask that question.

When I called my governor’s office to register my disapproval of SB1062 and my hopes for a veto, her staff asked me for my zip code. They were paying attention to who was calling from within the state and who was calling from outside. Had there truly been no protest at all from within, no way would that bill have been signed. The fact that I live here and registered my protest, in however small a way, mattered. If I left Arizona–if I left this gorgeous soul-filling desert and the fabulous community that live here–there’d would be one less local voice here to do so.

What I’m saying is this: National voices mattered for this battle. They matter for many of our battles. We need allies, and we couldn’t have defeated this bill without you. So thank you for that.

But you need to know that Arizona voices mattered too. And you couldn’t have done it without us, either.

One thought on “On the defeat of Arizona’s SB1062 and the importance of local voices”

  1. The thing that gets me is every time our legislature comes up with a controversial bill, which let’s face it, they tend to do frequently, people outside Arizona are reinforced in their belief that this is a state where conservative = gun-toting = fundamentalist = Republican. And we are so much more than that.

    P.S. And today, with the orange tree blossoming, the penstemon coming out, how could we not live here?

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