Much already has been said by others on Arizona’s new law that would allow – no, require – police officers to infringe on civil liberties in an effort to hunt down those who might be in this country illegally. But we have to add our voice to these concerns.
There’s an ugliness about Arizona’s new law that those of us who are gay or transgender find familiar. The law is steeped in the “us versus them” mentality with which our community has struggled for decades – a full-throated determination to shield America from the very diversity that American civil liberties and principles are designed to protect. And claims to the contrary notwithstanding, the law clearly appears to single out a group of people for arbitrary action — something of which our community, too, has been a victim at the local, state, and national levels.
Far worse legislation, of course, has emerged in countries overseas – Uganda’s “anti-gay law,” still pending in that parliament, being perhaps the most current and egregious example. But foreign laws should not be the standard of repulsion. In this country, we are seeking to repeal discriminatory laws and to enact others that would put gay and transgender people on equal footing with other citizens. Those efforts reflect America’s growing understanding that the rights of one part of society cannot be secured at the expense of another. But as we seek these changes, we have every reason to hold our country, and its state components, to higher standards of expectation in how it protects the individual freedoms that all of us hold dear. Surely Arizona’s law falls far, far short of those expectations.
We do not deny the need for comprehensive immigration reform – indeed, the Council is clearly on the record as having encouraged such reform, in an inclusive manner that addresses, too, the needs of LGBT citizens and their families. But that national need in no way can empower individual, misguided, and inappropriate efforts at the state level to take actions that violate the liberties of any class of individuals. Indeed, the very same forces in this country have helped to pass anti-gay measures in a majority of our states. We need comprehensive immigration reform and federal protections for LGBT people, while at the same time vigilantly ensuring the protection of civil and human rights of all individuals in the fifty states. Arizona’s law is an affront to the values that we as a country should protect. It brings shame to that state and should be repealed.