By: Jorge Campos
Despite growing acceptance the past four years, LGBT people in Arizona and countries including Uganda and Russia recently faced discriminating initiatives and severely harsh laws.
In Arizona, the state legislature passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that allows businesses to deny service to gay customers, citing religious freedom. The bill was approved Feb. 19 with a 33-27 vote in the state House of Representatives.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill seven days later.
“Going forward, let’s turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for respect and understanding among all Arizonans and Americans,” Brewer said.
Brewer heeded stern warnings from corporations including Apple, Marriott and American Airlines about potential economic boycotts from tourists, gay or straight.
Eight states including Arizona have already passed the so-called No Promo Homo laws, which make it illegal to promote gay rights in schools. Missouri and South Dakota also have laws called Enumeration that prohibit school districts from drafting policies against bullying that could protect gay students.
The flurry of legislation runs counter to the victories by the LGBT community, including getting 17 states and Washington D.C. to allow same sex marriage.
“It’s time for the media to shine a spotlight on those who will be most harmed by such legislation,” spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Omar Sharif Jr. said.
In 1990 the NFL denied Arizona’s bid to host Super Bowl XXVII because the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday.
Next year the Super Bowl is set to be played at the University of Phoenix. There has been no change in venue, said Brian McCarthy, vice president of corporate communications for the NFL.
“We know that such blatantly discriminatory laws — whether aimed at the LGBT community or any other group — they are bad business and damaging to America’s global competitiveness,” said United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Javier Palomarez.
The fight for LGBT rights intensified worldwide when Russia passed a law months before the Winter Olympics that fines Russian citizens up to $150, and non citizens up to $1,500, for committing or promoting gay behavior in public. Registered organizations that promote “propaganda” face up to $30,000 in fines or they are forced to cease operations for 90 days. The law does not define “propaganda.”
Uganda passed a law in February punishing homosexual acts and those who “counsel” or “aid and abet” homosexuals. This added harsher punishment to a separate bill proposed in 2009 that set a 14-year sentence for first time offenders. The maximum sentence, which used to carry a death penalty, is now life imprisonment.