Arizona, the Senate, and People Who Don’t “Get” Jesus

Every morning, I wake up and I get down on my knees to pray.

I thank God for this day, and I thank God for all the gifts in my life.

I ask God to keep me on His path today. To help me to remember that my will is not the way. That I am happiest when I am of service to others, when I am not singularly focused on my wants and needs. I ask God to remove from me the character defects of judgment and selfishness, so that I may better do His will today.

There are probably a lot of people who don’t know this, or who would not expect this, as I am also an openly gay man with a husband. Believe me, it took me a long time to get here, where I was comfortable with both my sexual orientation and my spiritual orientation. I’m still not entirely comfortable. The world of organized religion has worked very hard to make sure that people like me don’t feel comfortable with both, and the scars are visible for me in my life. There are days where I simply can’t utter the word God. It feels like it’s been co-opted by people who want people like me dead, and I don’t want any part of it. I have a lot of unresolved anger about what religious people do in the name of their God.

And then there are days like this, when I wake up to find that the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate has passed a bill that would make it acceptable for any business establishment to refuse service to others based on religious beliefs.

To translate, if this bill is signed into law, I could walk into a restaurant in my neighborhood with my husband, and be told that since the owners of the restaurants are Christians, and we are married gays, we are not welcome there.

It’s hard to know where to start, especially since I just got down on my knees and asked God to remove my judgment of others. It’s typically best for me to focus on my own shortcomings, rather than to focus on those of other people. But sometimes the transgressions of others impinge upon my life, and I do have to say something.

This is a glaring example of such a transgression.

Bills like this have failed recently in other states, including Kansas. They failed because it is unconstitutional to refuse access, goods and services to people based on, say, their skin color. Our country has been through this. That’s why there were sit-ins back in the 1960s, where black people courageously refused to leave restaurants in the South, facing arrest and violence from police. Because they wanted to be treated like full-fledged citizens with all the same rights as other citizens.

Senator Steve Yarbrough, a Republican from Chandler, my hometown, said, “Prohibited discrimination remains prohibited. In no way does this bill allow discrimination of any kind.”

Well, actually that’s not true.

Since LGBTQ people in Arizona are not covered in existing anti-discrimination laws, we are absolutely subject to discrimination. His first sentence is true-ish. That which is already prohibited (not hiring a person because of their race, for instance), remains prohibited. That which is NOT prohibited (you can decide not to hire me, or you can fire me, because I am gay) remains that way. And now, because of this bill, a new form of discrimination will be allowed: exclusion.

As an openly gay person, this bill terrifies me. Imagine walking into a local restaurant and being told you had to leave because they don’t want to serve people “like you.” If Governor Jan Brewer signs this into law, that will become a real possibility every time I walk into a business. I’ve heard people say, “Well, just don’t walk into that business.” That’s a lot easier to say than to live.

If it becomes a law — which it probably will, until, of course, a business is sued for following the law, at which time Arizona taxpayers will foot the bill for the lawsuit — I hope ALL Arizona businesses will let LGBTQ people know whether we are welcome in their store. Because I surely don’t want to ever be denied service because of who I am.

Let me end by saying that I don’t consider myself a Christian. I was born Jewish. My faith is non-denominational, though I do know quite a bit about Jesus and am a follower of his messages about treating others as you’d have them treat you, about loving your neighbor. Let me say that while I may not be Christian, I have gotten to the point that I no longer consider people who support these bills remotely Christian, either.

I cannot imagine getting down on my knees to pray and asking God to judge others as less than me. Even if I believed, in my heart, that those people were.

That’s not Christian, see. That’s just egocentric bullshit. And doing it in the name of your Lord makes you a hypocrite.