While serving as openly gay members of the Arizona House of Representatives, we were both confronted with — and voted against — homophobic bills routinely introduce by far right-wing members of the Republican Party.
Public opinion has shifted substantially since our years in the legislature, and we hoped these attacks on the LGBTQ+ community were a relic of the past. Tragically, bills rooted in bigotry are back.
They are bad for business, bad for people and bad for Arizona.
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Already this session, lawmakers have advanced bills to ban from school curricula books that mention homosexuality and to prohibit transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity. They’ve also proposed prison sentences for doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minors.
These bills are descendants of a shameful Arizona legacy and a decrepit conservative agenda out of step with the nation — in fact, not even representative of the mainstream GOP.
The 2014 legislative session brought us the calamity of Senate Bill 1062, which would have granted individuals (as well as businesses, corporations and nonprofits) the right to cite religious beliefs to deny service to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Conservatives in both chambers passed the legislation and sent it enthusiastically to then-Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for her signature.
Facing a wave of opposition from corporate America, including American Airlines, large tech firms and the prospect of losing the Super Bowl, Brewer ultimately realized what the members of her party had ignored: SB1062 would be an economic setback for Arizona.
In a statement she made upon vetoing the bill, Brewer said: “To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is non-discrimination.”
While we, like so many Arizonans, celebrated that veto, we also noted the hypocrisy of Brewer citing non-discrimination as her justification. It was with her signature in 2011 that Senate Bill 1188 became law. Another homophobic right-wing extremist concoction, SB1188 required adoption agencies to give priority to married heterosexual couples. Sure, that bill didn’t outright ban gay couples from adopting kids. But it didn’t have to be explicit to achieve the same goal.
We are not gay because we read about homosexuality in books. But books did help us understand that we were not alone.
– Matt Heinz and Demion Clinco
We were both members of the Arizona House of Representatives when these bills were approved, but the list of bigoted bills peddled at the Arizona Legislature is long — and only growing longer this year.
What the Republican-controlled legislature consistently fails to recognize is that the national appetite for this sort of hatred legislation does not exist anymore. If passed, these bills will repel the major companies and industries that Arizona has for so long been trying to attract. As a state, we spend millions wooing corporations in an ever-competitive global market. Will site selectors promote a place that attacks any member of our community?
Even more reprehensible is that these bills are destructive for the children and teens of our state. As gay men who came of age in the 1990s, we envy the LGBTQ+ youth who are growing up in a world without the explicit discrimination we faced as young men discovering our sexuality. We have been directly confronted with homophobic slurs, physical assault and intolerance.
Let’s be clear: We are not gay because we read about homosexuality in books. But books did help us understand that we were not alone.
Brewer was right in 2014 when she said that our society was undergoing dramatic changes. Same-sex couples have the right to marriage. Kids now understand that gender is not binary (even if their parents do not). While we celebrate many of these changes, we also recognize there’s still a long way to go. The homophobic and transphobic bills working their way through the legislative process will take us in the wrong direction, eroding the progress we have made toward becoming a society in which children are able to thrive no matter who they love or how they identify.
These bills are not only regressive and hostile — they’re also distractions. Legislators should be focused on the very real and urgent issues facing our state: lifting the education expenditure cap, managing our declining water resources, bolstering public health funding and infrastructure in all 15 counties, and ensuring that every eligible Arizonan has the right to vote and that their vote is counted.
As elected officials, as Arizonans and as members of the LGBTQ+ community, we recognize the destruction — to our state’s reputation and to children’s emotional and mental health — that is caused each session with the introduction of homophobic and transphobic legislation. These hatred bills must be stopped.
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