Hendrik Hertzberg: Jan Brewer’s Speech on Arizona’s Anti-Gay Bill : The New Yorker: "It was obvious almost from the evening of Friday, February 21st... that Governor Jan Brewer would veto it whether she wanted to or not.
Mitt Romney told her to; more important, so did locally influential fellow-Republicans like the state’s two U.S. senators, McCain and Flake. The “business community,” from groovy GoDaddy to Mormon Marriott, recoiled in such horror that you’d think the bill would also have raised the top marginal tax rate. When the N.F.L. strongly suggested that a new venue would have to be found for Super Bowl XLIX, the bill, already in the I.C.U., flatlined. And yesterday, just hours before Brewer stepped to the podium, Major League Baseball, invoking the memory of Jackie Robinson, did a solemn dance on the corpse.
So Brewer’s veto was no surprise. What was a surprise was the powerful, profoundly un-weaselly nature of her statement. Here it is, interspersed with my comments:
Good evening, and thank you all for joining me here this evening. I’m here to announce a decision on Senate Bill 1062. As with every proposal that reaches my desk, I give great concern and careful evaluation and deliberate consideration, and especially to Senate Bill 1062. I call them like I see them, despite the cheers or boos from the crowd. I took the necessary time to make the right decision. I met or spoke with my attorneys, lawmakers, and citizens supporting and opposing this legislation. I listened and asked questions. As governor, I have protected religious freedom when there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state.
Sounds an awful lot like she doesn’t think any such concern exists, doesn’t it?
And I have the record to prove it. My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona.
Guess what’s not on my agenda and doesn’t advance Arizona?
When I addressed the legislature earlier this year, I made my priorities for this session abundantly clear. Among them are passing a responsible budget that continues Arizona’s economic comeback. From C.E.O.s to entrepreneurs to business surveys, Arizona ranks as one of the best states to grow or start a business. Additionally, our immediate challenge is fixing a broken child-protection system.
Nice. One red item, one blue one.
Instead, this is the first policy bill to cross my desk.
Here’s where she really picks up steam. This line drips with disgust, disdain, and contempt.
Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.
One of the week’s big Rachel Maddow/Anderson Cooper talking points.
The bill was broadly worded—and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all the arguments I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago.
Oh, boy. Here comes the nut—or non-nut—graf.
To the supporters of this 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.
These are indisputable points, stated neutrally at worst. Indeed, to my ear, she sounds more sympathetic than not to the new dispensation. The norms are being “challenged,” a good thing, not “undermined,” a bad thing. The changes are “dramatic,” an adjective with a positive valence. What’s changing is “society,” which implies an organic, bottom-up evolution, not some unnatural deformation imposed by activist judges and the gay-friendly liberal media. And note what she doesn’t say. She doesn’t say what I’d expected her to, which would have been something like, “To the supporters of this legislation, I want you to know that I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Those are my personal convictions. But my obligations as governor are different. It has become clear that this bill, for all its good intentions, would inflict severe costs on the economy of our state. I cannot in good conscience demand that the people of Arizona pay those costs,” blah, blah, blah.
However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.
“Purports” implies that the bill’s sponsors acted in bad faith, which, of course, many of them did. But I didn’t expect her to acknowledge it.
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.
She has already said that religious liberty is not under threat.
So is nondiscrimination.
Wow. She’s saying that discrimination is at the very heart of the bill.
Going forward, let’s turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among all Arizonans and Americans.
It’s not really “the debate” that she’s calling ugly. The ugliness is the bill, without which there wouldn’t be a debate. And what is respect and understanding if not tolerance and acceptance?
Speaking of ugliness, don’t get me wrong: Jan Brewer’s governorship has not exactly been a thing of beauty. She abolished state-administered health insurance for children whose families weren’t quite poor enough for Medicaid. She has been unbelievably cruel in her treatment of undocumented immigrants. And before she was against discrimination she was for it, supporting ballot propositions banning not just marriage equality but civil unions, too.
But it was a damn good speech—unequivocal, ungrudging, and stern. That it was delivered by a Republican governor in a Republican state—and delivered with every sign of sincerity, even passion—is simply the latest astonishment in an astonishing American revolution. The change is, as Governor Brewer says, dramatic. It is tectonic. It is unstoppable. In an otherwise foreboding political landscape, it’s a blazing sunrise.