Pressure on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto a controversial religious-freedom bill isn’t just coming from local groups and lawmakers in her state, but also from the Starship Enterprise.
George Takei, the Star Trek actor-turned-gay-rights-activist, has threatened to launch a statewide boycott of the Grand Canyon State if Brewer approves what he calls the “turn away the gay” bill. Takei is being joined in his call for a veto by both of the state’s U.S. senators, politicians around the country, and even three GOP state senators who voted for the bill.
Senate Bill 1062 would allow professionals to decline to provide service to events that violate their religious beliefs. Critics say the bill effectively legalizes discrimination against gay Arizonans. Supporters argue the bill is meant to prevent, for example, photographers or bakers from taking part in a same-sex wedding if they have religious objections to it.
Takei thinks the “repugnant bill” goes too far. “You’re willing to ostracize and marginalize LGBT people to score political points with the extreme right of the Republican Party,” he said in a letter over the weekend. He also rejects the claim that the law is meant to protect people’s religious convictions, instead asserting that the bill is a “Jim Crow law.”
If Brewer signs the bill, Takei, who vacations in the state where his husband is from, will urge everybody “from large corporations to small families on vacation” to avoid doing business in the state, “because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.”
Takei — who in addition to his long-running role as Star Trek’s Lt. Sulu played “Maj. Kato” in a 1976 episode of Baa Baa Black Sheep and “First Ancestor” in Disney’s Mulan — also floated the idea of relocating the 2015 Super Bowl out of the state.
Moving the Super Bowl isn’t only being championed by Takei. Delaware governor Jack Markell told MSNBC that the NFL “should be looking to move the Super Bowl out of that state” if the bill becomes law.
The Greater Phoenix Economic Council also worries that the bill will have a “profound negative” overall economic impact on the state, including on Arizona’s hosting of the big game next year. Arizona faced similar protests in 2010 over SB 1070, a controversial immigration bill, which also led to boycotts of the state’s businesses and reportedly hurt the state economically. Business groups worry the potential boycotts will hurt even more.
Brewer’s fellow Republicans in the state aren’t giving the bill much support either. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain have called on her to veto the bill, and three state senators who supported the legislation just last week want Brewer to veto it. Senate Majority Whip Adam Driggs of Phoenix, Senator Bob Worsley of Mesa, and Senator Steve Pierce of Prescott, now say the bill was passed too quickly and would hurt the state.
Brewer, who rejected a similar bill last year, hasn’t indicated one way or the other what she’ll do this time around. “I have not been in town currently,” she told CNN from the annual governors meeting in Washington, D.C. “I’ve been reading about it on the internet. It’s very controversial, so I’ve got to get my hands around it.”
Brewer has until Friday to sign the bill.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.