Letter to the Editor:

 
"Observer Weekly"
First Posted: 5 March, 2014, Page 3
 

To the Editor,

 

In the Wednesday, February 26 “Weekly Observer” on page 3 you feature a picture of Republican House Representative Ethan Orr taken at the first Wingspan anti-SB 1062 rally. 

While I was not surprised to see him there, I was surprised that the Observer chose to print his photo over those of any of Southern Arizona’s openly gay public officials. Why not newly-minted Representative Demion Clinco or former lawmaker Paula Aboud or Tucson City Councilor Karin Uhlich?

While some may see the presence of a Republican official at such an event as a positive thing the reality is that Mr. Orr showed up only for his own aggrandizement. Ethan Orr represents Arizona’s majority-Democrat Ninth Legislative District. He is also up for re-election this November.

At the rally, Mr. Orr made it very clear that he voted against SB 1062. What he left out was the fact that he didn’t take the floor to speak out against the legislation and explain to his fellow Republicans exactly why he opposed it. What’s more, Mr. Orr did not make any effort to support more than a half-dozen amendments Democrats proposed that would have made the measure less onerous. Also telling, Mr. Orr was one of three Republicans who cast a “no” vote; each of who faces a strong Democratic challenger in November. It was a nice piece of theater that provided the trio with political cover and it cost the Republican Caucus nothing since their votes were not needed to pass the measure.

The Observer quotes Mr. Orr as saying “the insidious and dangerous part of this bill is that based on religious beliefs, we exclude people from commerce. That is unacceptable, inhumane and un-American.” It is telling that Mr. Orr’s only stated concern for the LGBTQ community is our ability to participate in “commerce.” He was not then and is not now concerned with any other aspect of our lives than our spending power and he made that plain at the Wingspan rally. Before he gave up the microphone I asked Mr. Orr where he stood on marriage equality. He appeared annoyed and gave a meaningless political non-answer to the effect that he believed the matter was one for each religious denomination to decide for itself. He ran off before I could ask a follow-up about whether Arizona should recognize same-sex unions and has subsequently avoided my phone calls on the matter. Oddly enough, Mr. Orr did not make any further appearances at anti-SB 1062 rallies in Tucson.

The vote on SB 1062 was just the latest in a series of blatant attempts by Mr. Orr to portray himself as a “moderate” ahead of the November election. But make no mistake; Ethan Orr is NOT a moderate. Would a “moderate” receive a “zero” rating by NARAL/Arizona Right to Choose?  Would a “moderate” get an 18-percent rating by the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club for his record on environmental issues? Would a “moderate” who is concerned about civil liberties vote “yes” to authorize the use of photo radar on state highways or vote “yes” on Rush Limbaugh-endorsed legislation to make gold and silver legal tender? Would the NRA give a “moderate” a whopping 92-percent rating?  The answer to all of this is a resounding NO.

It is not just the LGBTQ community who has reason to worry about Ethan Orr. His voting record provides ample proof that, more often than not, he walks in lockstep with the Tea Party conservatives who run the Arizona Legislature. For example, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Orr this month voted to approve a bill to make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to use any public facilities from bathrooms to parks, even roads and sidewalks. On January 2013, Mr. Orr joined other legislative Republicans and Governor Brewer in signing a proclamation denouncing Roe vs. Wade. It is no coincidence that particular document was the creation of the arch-conservative Center for Arizona Policy, the same group that helped author SB 1062. A “moderate?” Clearly not.

Jan Brewer killed SB 1062 on Wednesday the 26th but the fight against LGBTQ discrimination IS NOT OVER in Arizona. An identical twin, HB 2153 currently sits in limbo awaiting committee action while another discrimination bill, HB 2481 made it to the House floor before being put on hold. That measure would permit anyone who performs weddings, either civil or religious, to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse to officiate at a ceremony.

The only way to ensure we don’t keep fighting these same battles is to seize political power from the forces of regressive conservatism. We must remember. We must organize. We must register to vote in great numbers. Most importantly, WE MUST VOTE!

 

Robert Rowley,

Chair, Stonewall Democrats of Arizona