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27 February 2014 @ 09:49 am
On the defeat of Arizona’s SB1062 and the importance of local voices  

So this week Arizona’s governor vetoed SB1062, which would have allowed businesses to choose who to serve based on their personal beliefs, and which would especially have made it easy to refuse to deny service (in restaurants, in medical offices, in countless other places) based on sexual orientation, because of the lack of other anti-discrimination legislation that would have protected the LGBT community in the face of that bill.

As one does when one’s elected representative does the right thing–even if I didn’t personally elect her, and even if I disagree with most of her decisions–I thanked her, both on social media and with a call and letter to her office. (I’d also written and called, earlier in the week, to register my opposition to the bill.)

A few people suggested that thanking Governor Brewer was inappropriate, essentially because, they said, she only vetoed the bill at all because national pressures shamed her into it.

Well, actually, our governor did veto a similar bill about a year ago with far less national attention focused on the matter, but never mind that … national pressures did play a huge role in the veto of this bill, and we’re grateful for them. But local pressures played a huge role too. So did the fact that not only Arizona liberals but also many Arizona conservatives outside the state legislature–including both our U.S. senators–as well as Arizona interests such as the Phoenix economic council (hardly a liberal stronghold) urged her strongly to consider a veto. Pretty much everyone–well, not everyone, but huge huge numbers of people–in Arizona outside the legislature, with a few exceptions, was urging a veto.

I say this because I think there’s a tendency, when a conservative state does something deeply troubling, for the liberals in less conservative states to see it as their job to “save” us. And that’s both true and not true.

I’ve had liberal friends in other states offer to write editorials to my own papers for me and sign my name to them, under the assumption that this was something we, I don’t know, just couldn’t do this for ourselves. I’ve had them come here to monitor our polls, not asking whether there were those already here in sympathy with her views who might be perfectly capable of doing so. Just recently I had a friend in a liberal state actually tell me proudly how in her state, the Sanctuary movement was ever-so-much-better, because in her state, everyone supported it and there was no need for secrets. I managed to get my jaw up off the floor long enough to explain to her that actually, Sanctuary began in Arizona. And over and over again, I have friends who share my political views ask me, directly and indirectly, “How can you live there?”

I remember learning, as an adult, that during the civil rights protests of the 1960s, Mississippians and Alabamans had mixed feelings when northerners headed south to fight the injustices there–because national action did make a huge difference, but the south also had their own home-grown activist community already there protesting before the northerners arrived, and that got forgotten a little as outsiders came in and took over. I was startled at the time–being from a northeastern state, I’d been raised on stories of how we did save those less right-minded than us–but after a couple decades in Arizona, I get it.

We want your help. We need your help, and we value it. But we’re not incompetent children who are standing by idle waiting for you to swoop in and save us. (Did you know we were protesting the legislative shutdown of our Mexican studies program for months before the national media finally noticed?) We’re activists, too, and of course we’re working to change things. I’m not working nearly as hard as many … mostly I’m writing letters these days … but since moving to Arizona, I’ve regularly met people who through the years have put their lives and livelihoods and freedom on the line to do the right thing–far more than I ever met living in the northeast. When I’m asked by those who share my views how I can live here, more and more often I want to ask them how they can live their comfortable lives–lives where they don’t have to fight for or put anything on the line for their beliefs, or have them questioned by friends or neighbors or acquaintances, or even learn that most basic skill of how to get along with people who disagree with them–and then ask that question.

When I called my governor’s office to register my disapproval of SB1062 and my hopes for a veto, her staff asked me for my zip code. They were paying attention to who was calling from within the state and who was calling from outside. Had there truly been no protest at all from within, no way would that bill have been signed. The fact that I live here and registered my protest, in however small a way, mattered. If I left Arizona–if I left this gorgeous soul-filling desert and the fabulous community that live here–there’d would be one less local voice here to do so.

What I’m saying is this: National voices mattered for this battle. They matter for many of our battles. We need allies, and we couldn’t have defeated this bill without you. So thank you for that.

But you need to know that Arizona voices mattered too. And you couldn’t have done it without us, either.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

starrcat on February 27th, 2014 05:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this, Janni. I always wonder (living in one of thoseNE states!) about taking action for a state issue when I don't live there. I generally sign petitions and the like without the whole (I hope) I know better than you thing.

You have given me a comfort level that support is needed and vocalization but not take overs. I think one of the biggest things that vocalization from here does is get the national media involved. The media is certainly not doing the job it should without lots of voices!

And congratulations on a big win for your state.
Janni Lee Simner: saguarojanni on February 27th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
Yes. I think it's like being an ally in any movement, you know?

I think national outrage definitely helps and is valuable. (And, of course, there's also the issue of copycat bills if this one had passed--this wasn't only about us.) It's just not the whole story. And it's also worth remembering that those within a state will be fighting even when the national outrage moves on, as it does.

And thanks. Given past history I was hopeful Brewer wouldn't sign this one either, but I was, of course, not at all sure. So I am thankful she did the right thing!

Edited at 2014-02-27 05:16 pm (UTC)
starrcat on February 27th, 2014 06:11 pm (UTC)
I was a bit worried when Brewer delayed but am so glad it worked out in the end.

I like the ally label. We all need to be allies for each other. I certainly need them dealing with my governor - Chris Christie!!
The Green Knight: Activismgreen_knight on February 27th, 2014 05:17 pm (UTC)
The other day (sadly, on Twitter, where I failed to bookmark this on my phone) I read an article by a muslim feminist contrasting the experiences she had in Morocco (where there's a vibrant feminist activist scene, many books, articles, public discussions) and in America (where the narrative is 'these poor women must be saved from the opressive men'. Different situation, same pattern.

Janni Lee Simner: arctic foxjanni on February 27th, 2014 05:19 pm (UTC)
Yes. It's a pattern that shows up all over the place.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on February 27th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
I was so relieved to hear of that veto yesterday, the more after the horrible, vile news from Uganda.
(Deleted comment)
Danny Adamsmadwriter on February 28th, 2014 03:58 am (UTC)
I can't wrap my head around someone from out of state offering an author who's a native of that state to write anything at all to put her name to.
fjmfjm on February 28th, 2014 12:41 pm (UTC)
I used to love teaching the Civil Rights movement of the 1880s thru 1955 for just this reason. All the stuff about what southerners did for themselves was completely unknown to most.
Janni Lee Simner: arctic foxjanni on March 4th, 2014 05:39 pm (UTC)
It definitely wasn't taught in my northeastern U.S. school.

Of course, in (primary and secondary school) American history courses we always ran out of time right around the 1960s, too, which is when the civil rights movement gets taught (as if, as you say, nothing was going on until then), so the whole subject got short shrift to begin with.

I've never known whether the fact that we never quite made it to the Vietnam War was poor planning or a hesitance on the part of my 1980s teachers to go there at all.