Love is Love: Remembering Pulse & Loving

Love is Love: Remembering Pulse & Loving

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June 12 has become a very significant day.  Today is the 50th anniversary of the landmark case Loving vs. Virginia.  It is also the one year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, where 49 innocent lives were lost.

Both are very closely intertwined.  On June 12, 1967, the ruling by the Supreme Court in Loving vs. Virginia allowed couples of different races to marry — striking down the slavery era prohibitions to such unions.  This case was used as the foundation of the case that allowed gays to marry. That freedom to love and to be happy was attacked by a lone gunman on June 12, 2016.

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Iconic photo of Richard and Mildred Loving that originally appeared in Life Magazine

As I reflect on the significance of this day, I mourn the lives that were lost simply because of who they are or who they love. Interracial couples still face hurdles as well as racism (even though 1 in 10 couples in America are interracial).

I think about the rise in hate crimes under this current administration, and pray that the strong minded among us will join me in the fight against hate in all forms.

Evil flourishes when good people stand by and do nothing.

Please see my pieces — on being part of an interracial couple in “Love Winshere; my tribute to the Lovings here; and my reaction one year ago to the Pulse shooting in “It Could Have Been Mehere.

In solidarity,

M.

Nightclub Shooting Victims
Remembering the 49 lives tragically lost at Pulse Nightclub
The Arizona Law That Never Was…And the Bigger Picture

The Arizona Law That Never Was…And the Bigger Picture

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Here are my thoughts on the Arizona bill that was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. It appeared this morning on legal website theLaw.tv.

Last night, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial SB 1062 bill. It has been known as the “religious freedom bill,” as well as an “anti-gay bill.” The simplified meaning of the bill is that it would give small business owners the right to deny service based on the owner’s religious beliefs. The Arizona legislature approved the bill, but it required Gov. Brewer’s signature to become law. She vetoed the bill, stating that she not heard of one case in Arizona where a business owner’s religious freedom was affected, and that the law was over-broad with the possibility of negative and unintended consequences.

Here is a prime case of when religion, law, and money collide. It appears that this law came from conservative Christian business owners, who did not want to perform certain services for the gay community. The examples that came up were those of the photographer who did not want to photograph a same sex wedding; a printer who did not want to make flyers for a gay event; a baker who did not want to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

On its face, it seems to be narrowly intended for the gay community. However, any law can easily take on a life of its own. The lawmakers may have one intent, but laws have much wider applications. Under the proposed Arizona law, as long as you can (1) show that your action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief, (2) that your religious belief is sincerely held, and (3) that the state action substantially burdens the exercise of your religious beliefs, there would be no adverse actions against you for denial of a service.

So look at the possible broader application. A small business owner can say: “My religious beliefs say that I cannot do a wedding cake for an interracial couple, and forcing me to do so will burden my religious practice.” Sadly, there are people that truly believe this. The law now becomes a slippery slope of application, making the law over-broad. Also, how does one define a “substantial burden” to the exercise of your religion? This standard is too vague, which would lead to problems in the court interpreting and applying the law.

Keep in mind, nothing prevents business people from declining clients now. A business can pick and choose their clients, as well as the types of project they want to do. Most patrons tend to go to places where they are welcome or have been referred to by friends. So from a common sense application, this law was not needed. There have been stories from across the country of conservative Christians being “forced” to do work for gay clients and sued for refusing. But each case needs to be examined, based on the facts, by the courts involved. There is always more to a story. Our judicial system is designed to decide such matters. And this is what Gov Brewer pointed to when she vetoed the bill. She said that she could not find any such cases of this in Arizona. As a result, it was clear that legislation was not necessary.

The other interesting aspect about this bill is that some Arizona legislators ran for cover in the face of the backlash. Some legislators came out and asked Gov. Brewer not sign the bill. One legislator claimed that they didn’t know what they signed and that the law wasn’t explained to him and his fellow legislators. It seems as the depth of the possible applications became known, the legislators had a change of heart.

Last but not least is finances. Arizona is hosting the next Super Bowl, and the NFL, which will soon have its first openly gay player, was keeping a close eye on this bill. Other large corporations publicly voiced their opposition. Arizona was in jeopardy of losing business dollars if the bill passed.

Similar bills are pending in other states, including Kansas and Georgia. Constitutionally, gays are not always a protected class the way African Americans, women, and people with disabilities are. Because of this, discrimination against gays is a huge legal battleground.

America is about freedom, including freedom to disagree. The face of America is changing. The law is going to have to keep up, which will be a challenge. Equality for all will be enforced, either through the ballot box or the pocketbook.

The author Melba Pearson is an attorney in South Florida. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva.