Monday night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Arizona Republican state senator Al Melvin, who is running for governor and is the only candidate actively supporting SB-1062, the anti-gay “religious freedom” license to discriminate bill. Senator Melvin could not give Cooper any examples of religious discrimination that SB-1062 would prevent in the Grand Canyon State. He used the phrase “religious freedom” a lot, but, despite the ten-minute unedited interview, was at a loss for words to support the existence of the bill that currently sits on Gov. Jan Brewer‘s desk.
In fact, Anderson Cooper was forced to repeatedly state, “but you can’t cite one example where religious freedom is under attack in Arizona.”
“Not now, no, but how about tomorrow, Sen. Melvin offered, after pausing.
“Well — I don’t understand what that means,” Cooper responded. “I mean, if you can’t cite in the entire history of Arizona, one case where religious freedom has been under attack, or even in the last year where it’s been under attack, is this really the most important thing for you to be workin’ on in the state House and the Senate?”
“We’re doing many things, sir,” Sen. Melvin replied. “We are trying to stop Common Core from being implemented in the state, we’re trying to secure the border… We can do multiple things here, and this is one of them — to protect religious freedom.”
Cooper then offered an example of an unwed mother and a divorced woman who, under SB-1062, could easily be targeted by those exercising their “religious freedom.”
“I don’t know where you’re getting your hypotheticals,” Melvin said. “Who would be against an unwed mother?”
Cooper, again, was forced to educate the Senator. “Jesus spoke against divorce,” he told the Arizona Republican. “He never said anything about gay people.”
“I think you’re being far-fetched with all due respect sir,” Sen. Melvin told Cooper. “As a Christian, as most God-fearing men and women would respect unwed mothers, divorced women — who would discriminate against them. I’ve never heard of discriminating against people like that.”
Melvin refused to consider Cooper’s purely plausible examples.
“You know, all of the pillars of society are under attack in the United States. The family, the traditional family, 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.”
(The irony of Sen. Melvin telling an openly-gay man that “all of the pillars of society,” including “traditional marriage,” “are under attack in the United States,” escaped the Senator.)
Cooper then asked, “Under attack by who?”
“Well, Melvin responded, “it’s throughout the country. We had a ballot measure a few years ago, to define marriage as between one man and one woman… and it passed and that now is part of our constitution.”
Cooper then reminded Melvin that, “no florist is going to be forced to participate in a gay wedding, because, ‘a’ — you don’t have gay weddings in Arizona, and you’re not going to any time soon — and ‘b’ under Arizona law, it’s OK to discriminate against a gay person, to refuse them service already.”
“With all due respect sir, I don’t know anyone in Arizona that would discriminate against a fellow human being.”
“Discrimination doesn’t exist in Arizona?,” Cooper, shocked, asked, noting he knows people in New York who discriminate.
“Well, maybe you ought to move to Arizona. We’re more people-friendly here, apparently.”
Senator Melvin’s lack of understanding of the bill, the intended or unintended consequences of the bill, and what discrimination actually means and that it exists is appalling and embarrassing.
Sen. Melvin closed by reminding Cooper that he is “the only candidate for governor in Arizona who is promoting and defending this bill.”
Below is the video. Part two includes NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino who defended Cooper’s analysis.
Towards the end of part two, Cooper blasts Melvin who refuses to state whether or not he believes firing an LGBT person for being LGBT is discrimination.
“You’re going to be governor of gay and lesbian people, and you can’t even go on the record and say if a gay or lesbian person is fired simply for being gay or lesbian, that’s discrimination?” Cooper incredulously inquired. “You can’t even make that leap and say, ‘Yeah, that would be discrimination’?”
“I don’t know of any case like you just cited, sir,” Melvin responded.