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When it comes to bigotry, Arizona and Uganda alike

By
From page A8 | March 05, 2014 |

The state of Arizona and the East African nation of Uganda don’t have much in common.

But there is one area in which the two are remarkably similar: They both tend to have backward, bigoted political leadership.

That has never been more evident than in what we have witnessed in the last couple of weeks, during which the Ugandan president signed into law an anti-gay bill that included life in prison for certain acts, and the Arizona legislature sent an anti-gay bill to its governor that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against homosexuals.

In each case supporters of the legislation invoked religion as the basis of their prejudicial action.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, after threats of economic boycotts and the possibility of losing the Super Bowl next year, vetoed the bill, but not before the state once again had cast itself as a bastion of intolerance. There are other recent examples of that which I’ll get to later.

Pressure from other foreign countries and the United Nations, including withdrawal of economic aid, did not keep Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni from signing a bill that would send a person to prison for life if found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – having sex with minors, “serial offenders” or a person infected with HIV having sex, even if consensual and protected.

The bill, which originally included the death penalty, outlaws same-sex relations outright, but also calls for jail time for those who aid or counsel homosexuals.

Since 2009, after some American Christian evangelists warned Ugandan leaders about the ills of homosexuality, there has been a push to toughen the anti-gay laws there, with some in parliament pledging to get a bill passed “in time for Christmas” of 2012. They didn’t make that deadline, but did pass it Dec. 23, 2013, and Museveni signed it Feb. 24.

A $90 million loan to Uganda for its health system has been suspended by the World Bank, and Norway and Denmark have said they would withhold funding because of the law, according to Reuters news service.

You may think I’m overreaching to compare Arizona’s actions to the homophobia being exhibited in the African nation, but I’m not. In some ways what legislators there did was to use the guise of Christianity as a way to codify discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.

Proponents of the legislation claimed it was not anti-gay, but a way to allow Christians to practice religious freedom by refusing to do business with those whose lifestyles conflict with the business owners’ faith.

Sixty years ago, owners of businesses in the South made basically the same argument, claiming their rights were being violated if they could not refuse service to blacks based on long-held, and sometimes Bible-referenced, beliefs.

Arizona’s intolerance is well documented. Its series of an anti-immigration laws, particularly the one that legalizes racial profiling, speak clearly to that. Those acts have caused many groups to avoid traveling to or doing business in that state.

One would have thought the state would have learned from its experience 25 years ago when its leaders, and later the electorate, refused to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday. In addition to losing major conventions and tourists, Arizona lost the 1993 Super Bowl when the NFL moved it to Pasadena.

After passage of this most recent legislation, the economic dominoes began to fall quickly, and the NFL began to look at alternatives for next year’s Super Bowl, which is set to be played in Glendale, Ariz.

In this latest show of discrimination, Arizona leaders permitted their economic interest to trump their bigotry.

But understand that the governor’s veto, while stopping enactment of an unjust law, will not erase the stain that Arizona carries because of its repeated demonstrations of intolerance.

Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may write to him at: 400 W. 7th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or via email at bobray@star-telegram.com.

Bob Ray Sanders

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 10 comments

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  • CD BrooksMarch 05, 2014 - 6:23 am

    AZ and KS among others, took to extreme their prejudice. My fellow citizens in regard to my letter, “it aroused a few, angered some and left others quiet. Nice. The “haters” among you vilified me. Many of those I count on for support bailed. The citizenry of this city stepped away. Why, too hot for your liking? Truth hurt? How dare any of you spin it in terms of how you are somehow being abused! I got a letter from a man I have always had immense respect for, a gay man that praised and thanked me for publically taking a stance (which I am notably wont to do). The facts are in, they’re undeniable and all of you really should have been shouting from the rooftops against the injustice. But you did not.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogMarch 05, 2014 - 1:07 pm

    CD looks like nobody cares what you think.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksMarch 05, 2014 - 1:16 pm

    Salty Dog, I made that apparent in my comment.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarMarch 05, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    There are few speaking out against those who are oppressed. I am glad CD does so. There are many more, however, speaking out trying to protect their own extra privileges and rights from falling into the hands of "lesser" people than themselves. And that is pretty sad.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The SugarJarMarch 05, 2014 - 2:09 pm

    Against those who are oppressing. Too many speak against the oppressed. :(

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensMarch 05, 2014 - 7:42 am

    Sounds like over the top empty rhetoric and hyperbole to me by a bunch of leftist loons. Did you even other to read the legislation that Brewer vetoed before you compared Arizona to Uganda?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Danny BuntinMarch 05, 2014 - 2:45 pm

    @Rich: You say "rhetoric and hyperbole", then follow it up with "bunch of leftist loons". Classic!!!!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacMarch 05, 2014 - 6:04 pm

    Governor Brewer is great. Wish we had her!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • General Fadi BasemMarch 05, 2014 - 8:21 pm

    Reading this article leads me to believe that Bob Ray and the NFL are in favor of homosexuals having sex with minors. Both also appear to be all in favor of allowing persons infected with HIV continuing to have sex. I guess they are also in favor of homosexuals who are HIV infected having sex with minors. I would not count myself as being in favor of those things. Maybe the DR can have a poll, and see which readers are in favor of those things.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • General Fadi BasemMarch 05, 2014 - 9:09 pm

    Reading this article leads me to believe that Bob Ray and the NFL are in favor of h-- having s-- with minors. Both also appear to be all in favor of allowing persons infected with HIV continuing to have s--. I guess they are also in favor of h-- who are HIV infected having s-- with minors. I would not count myself as being in favor of those things. Maybe the DR can have a poll, and see which readers are in favor of those things. And why would comments which include words in the original article be delayed or entirely censored out?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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