Gay rights advocates march against SB 1062
Even as major organizations, including marquee names such as Apple and the NFL, have criticized Arizona for SB 1062 and pushed Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the legislation, gay rights advocates are taking no chances.
A core group of around 30 supporters and members of Wingspan marched Monday from the group's office on 7th Steet near 4th Avenue along Congress Street to the Arizona state government building downtown, meeting a second group of around 20 at the corner of Congress and Granada Avenue.
The bill would allow businesses owners and employees to refuse to conduct business based on their own "sincerely held" religious beliefs. For the gay community, this is widely believed to be a license to discriminate against the gay community in Tucson, and throughout Arizona.
Tucson and Phoenix have local ordinances barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the state law would preempt those measures if religious beliefs were cited.
Dea Brasgalla, 80, worked for Wingspan for 18 years and has spoken at Pride Alliance events at the University of Arizona. Stooped and using a cane, Bragsalla met the marchers at the corner and cheered them on. She worries about bills like SB 1062, but sees this as a battle in a much longer fight; one she's been involved in for decades.
"It's just a matter of time before things change," she said. "There's a big change in attitude in kids today. They don't think gay relationships are a big deal. They're the future, but we need to keep working now."
Jerry Diaz, 48, notes the dozens of signs posted along the protest route asking Brewer to veto the law and wants to send a "thank you" letter to each one.
"Business are at the heart of this. We can make all the noise, but at the end of the day, we need their support, " he said, adding that he will send Brewer a thank-you letter if she vetoes the bill.
Nearby, Erin Ogletree carried a sign: "Log Cabin Republicans. We don't discriminate. Veto."
Log Cabin Republicans support the mainstream party, but break with the GOP on gay rights issues. "There's a fight going on in the Republican Party and we need to let go of the issues that alienate people," said Ogletree. "I think the Republican Party has some of the best ideas about governance, but the party has abandoned this group," she added, nodding to the people at the rally.
Paula Aboud, a state senator until 2013, believes that Brewer will ultimately veto the bill.
"She'll do it because of the business community, not because of our community. How long she waits while Arizona's reputation gets hit, remains to be seen," Aboud said.
The former Democratic legislator noted that should Brewer sign the bill into law, gay rights groups will have 90 days after the end of the legislative session to collect 90,000 signatures for a ballot measure that could directly challenge the law during the 2014 elections.
The response against the bill has been overwhelming, says Carol Grimsby, executive director of Wingspan, a gay rights advocacy and outreach organization.
On Monday, she said, there were over 500 emails in support of Wingspan's mission, helped by press coverage of the bill. "No matter how this bill is wrapped up in a cloak of religion, it smacks of discrimination."
While she believes the bill will ultimately fail, "We're not taking any chances, especially since it's already gone this far."
Advocates want to march each day until Brewer ultimately signs or defeats the bill.
"I'll be here," said Diaz. "Every day until this bill goes away."