Add entertainer-activist George Takei and U.S. senator Jeff Flake to the list of those opposing Arizona’s pending “license to discriminate” legislation.
Takei, the out former Star Trek star, posted a strongly worded letter on his blog Friday calling for a boycott of the state if Gov. Jan Brewer signs the bill, which would give legal cover to businesses and individuals who say their sincere religious beliefs prevent them from serving LGBT people, members of religions other than their own, or certain others.
Takei writes, “Dear Arizona, Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses — even those open to the public — to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s ‘sincerely held religious belief.’ This ‘turn away the gay’ bill enshrines discrimination into the law. Your taxi drivers can refuse to carry us. Your hotels can refuse to house us. And your restaurants can refuse to serve us.”
He goes on to say that he and his husband, Brad, “have strong ties to Arizona.” Brad was born in Phoenix, and the two have friends and family in the state. They often vacation in the Arizona town of Show Low.
If the bill becomes law, he says, “We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know — from large corporations to small families on vacation — to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.” He also notes that the state’s initial refusal to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday resulted in a boycott that cost Arizona $500 million. “Maybe you just never learn,” he writes.
He concludes, “If our appeals to equality, fairness, and our basic right to live in a civil society without doors being slammed in our face for being who we are don’t move you, I’ll bet a big hit to your pocketbook and state coffers will.
Flake, a conservative Republican and devout Mormon, sent a brief message about the bill on Twitter Saturday, saying, “I hope Governor Brewer vetoes SB 1062.” Several news organizations sought further comment from him, but he did not respond immediately. Flake, a freshman U.S. senator from Arizona and former member of the U.S. House, has a mixed record on LGBT issues. In November he voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but he also last year he had to apologize for his son’s use of racist and homophobic language on Twitter, and in 2009 for his own use of “pansy,” claiming he did not know if had antigay connotations.
Business groups have joined civil rights organizations and others, including Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton, in calling on Brewer to veto the bill, passed by both houses of the legislature last week. From the time it reaches her desk, she has five days to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without her signature. She has not indicated which way she will go.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Senator Flake opposed ENDA. In reality, he was one of 10 Republican senators who voted in favor of the LGBT antidiscrimination legislation. The Advocate regrets this error.