So, anyway, last week, David “Three Sonorans” Morales posted this on his Facebook page:
At first, I saw this and wanted to respond by pointing out that David’s memory seems to be too short for him to recall the Democratic opposition to SB1070 and HB2281. But then, I realized that, though his comments about Democrats are unfair and not based in historical fact, he may have stumbled upon an ugly truth regarding the outrage over SB1062, the latest manifestation of ugly bigotry from the legislature.
First, we have to realize that, though bigotry is inherently evil, the way that this evil manifests itself against any given community is unique and rooted in a particular history. The bigotry against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans that drove SB1070 has its roots in, among other things, economic anxiety, misconceptions about this region’s history, a fear of the loss of political power and concerns about crime. The “facts” upon which these are based are often spurious, exaggerated or out of context, but at least there is some sort of negligible substance there to argue.
Bigotry against homosexuals, which is what is behind SB1062, is different. It is largely about squeamishness over what other people might be doing. There can be no pretense that this is about anything as important as preserving jobs for good Americans or combating brutal gangs because it clearly is not.
Anti-gay rhetoric is obsessed with sex. Though we certainly hear this less often than we did in the 1980s and 90s, conservatives still have a habit of making graphic, sometimes scatological references to what they imagine gays might be doing in the privacy of their bedrooms. During my time in the legislature, one Mesa Republican notoriously kept a stash of gay porn in her desk, ready to deploy as props during floor debate as an illustration of what she viewed as the depravity of homosexuality. Notwithstanding the number of ostensibly tough, macho dudes who live in fear of being buggered, its called homophobia for a reason, after all, even the most eloquent anti-gay activist is basically arguing, in the words of political philosopher Joe Bob Briggs, “we heard what you gays are doing, and we don’t like it.”
In other words, while the bigotry behind SB1070 was ignorant, the bigotry behind SB1062 is irrational. It can be argued that this is a distinction without a difference, and that it is not simply coincidental that movement conservatives embrace both, but it does begin to explain why the reaction to the two bills has been different.
Anti-gay bigotry is largely about what other people are doing, so it is easy to argue against legislation like SB1062 from a live and let live perspective, particularly in an age when gay culture is being mainstreamed and the case for legalized discrimination starts looking a little silly. In contrast, the case against sB1070 is in some ways harder to make. Anglo suburban anxiety about immigration is reenforced by largely stereotypical and negative portrayals of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the media, and cross-border crime is a very real problem, so the hate behind legislation like SB1070 becomes all too easy to rationalize.
Of course, this does not fully explain the differences between the reactions to the two bills. In 2010, the organized business community expressed misgivings about the substance of SB1070 and the bill’s possible negative effects on the political debate and Arizona’s image as a state, but were unwilling to press the issue any further. In contrast, most business organizations (with the notable exception, as of this writing, of The Tucson Metro Chamber) as well as many prominent Republicans, are calling for a veto of SB1062, and this seems an active possibility. Four years ago, Governor Brewer was facing what seemed to be a tough re-election fight, and the possibility that the Executive Tower would again be occupied by a Democrat seemed too much for the chambers and the Republican establishment to stomach, and dabbling in apartheid was seen as an acceptable price to keep her in office. Now, Brewer is not up for re-election, and everybody, still smarting from the bad press that SB1070 brought us, is concerned about the damage to Arizona’s image and the Republican “brand” that such clearly bigoted legislation will bring. Or perhaps, they have finally decided that this has all gone too far, in which case, this seems too little, too late.
But then again, if this were truly driven by a desire to turn the corner and shake our image as a haven for bigotry, one would suspect that they would be willing to do something to reverse the damage that SB1070 did to our state, but we have no such luck. An effort by Senator Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) to repeal SB1070 has received no support from Republicans or the business community, and has been met with the same dismissive ridicule from the press that the law’s opponents were subjected to four years ago, when the state’s major newspapers were more willing to rail against 1070’s critics than the bill itself. By the same token, the silence from these quarters regarding efforts to require taxpayers to pay the legal bills of SB1070’s sponsors seems to imply that they are still okay with the law.
There are welcome signs that SB1062 will vetoed. The widespread public outrage over this evil bill is heartening, and gives great hope to those of us who have been fighting for change for years. Unfortunately, there remain troublesome signs that some bigotry remains acceptable.