Here are the facts: Arizona's Senate just passed a bill (SB1062) that, as CNN explains, "allows business owners to deny service to [LGBT] customers so long as proprietors were acting solely on their religious beliefs." But Arizona does not have any anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people, who business owners could basically already do that to anyway.
Which is why, when Arizona Senator Al Melvin appeared on AC360, Anderson Cooper really only had one question: "You say this law is about protecting people of faith in Arizona, can you give me a specific example of someone in Arizona who's been forced to do something against their religious belief or successfully sued because of their faith?"
Spoiler alert: Melvin could not.
"It's as basic as religious freedom. You could say that it might be preemptive, after we saw what has taken place in other states, but we think it's nothing more and nothing less than protecting religious freedom in our state," Melvin claimed. The other states he's referring to could possibly be Kansas, South Dakota, Idaho and Tennessee, who attempted to pass similar bills but failed.
Melvin went on to say that it was "not a discrimination bill, but a religious freedom bill." He said he doesn't "know of anybody in Arizona who would discriminate against a fellow human being" and "more people friendly here." And when Cooper attempts to apply the religious logic to, say, unwed mothers or divorcees, Melvin called the analogies "farfetched."
"All of the pillars of society are under attack in the United States. The family, the traditional family, the traditional marriage, mainline churches, the Boy Scouts, you name it, all of the pillars of society as we know it today are under attack, including religious freedom," Melvin ranted.
To which Cooper simply asked, once again, "Who's attacking it, in Arizona?"
And once again, Melvin had no response.
"You can't cite one example where religious freedom is under attack in Arizona," Cooper shot back. "If you can't cite in the entire history of Arizona, one case where religious freedom has been under attack, or even in the past year, is this really the most important thing for you to be working on right now?"
Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, will now "listen to both sides" before she decides whether to sign the bill into law or veto it. The decision should come by the end of the week.
Just intvd AZ republican state senator who regrets voting for controversial bill. He now admits it would result in discrimination #AC360 8pm? Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) February 25, 2014
Meanwhile, as the backlash continues, some senators have come forth, saying they both regret supporting the bill (it was a "lapse," as one senator refers to it) and "didn't expect it to pass."
The three state senators, who initially voted in favor of the measure, said in a letter to Republican Governor Jan Brewer that the proposal had been mistakenly approved in haste and had already caused "immeasurable harm" to Arizona's national image.
"While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance," the senators wrote in letter, by state Senators Adam Driggs, Steve Pierce and Bob Worsley.
When a similar bill was up for vote in Kansas, Andrew Sullivan of The Dish posted a great piece questioning the faith-based motivation behind the bill: "As for the allegedly Christian nature of this legislation, let's not mince words," he writes. "This is the inversion of Christianity."
Even if you believe that gay people are going to Hell, that they have chosen evil, or are somehow trying to subvert society by seeking to commit to one another for life, it does not follow that you should ostracize them. The entire message of the Gospels is about embracing those minorities despised by popular opinion. Jesus made a point to associate with the worst sinners – collaborating tax-collectors, prostitutes or lepers whose disease was often perceived as a sign of moral failing. The idea that Christianity approves of segregating any group is anathema to what Jesus actually preached and the way he actually lived. The current Pope has explicitly opposed such ostracism. Christians, far from seeking distance from "sinners", should be engaging them, listening to them, ministering to them – not telling them to leave the store or denying them a hotel room or firing them from their job.
Read the full piece here. And we'll leave you with the words of Ellen Page, who so eloquently said, "This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another."