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Leonard Pitts: America needs to send a message to Arizona

Boycott Arizona.

Somebody design the T-shirts. Somebody ready the bumper stickers.

Boycott Arizona.

Gov. Jan Brewer has not said at this writing whether she will veto a bill passed by the state legislature that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds. Maybe she'll do the right thing. Maybe we should be ready in case she does not.

After all, this is the state that resisted the Martin Luther King holiday for six years. The one that outlawed ethnic studies classes. The one where state lawmakers tried to redefine U.S. citizenship to snub so-called "anchor babies." The one where brown people are required to show their papers.

Maybe it's time the rest of us said, Enough. Maybe we should boycott Arizona.

Or, we could boycott Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma or Kansas where similar measures are or have been under consideration. Granted, such a law is unlikely to survive its first court challenge. Granted, too, these laws amount to little more than temper tantrums by last-ditch bigots who don't realize history has passed them by as a Ferrari does a traffic cone. But perhaps there is something to be said for inflicting economic pain as a way of saying, Cut it out. Perhaps the right wing's proud embrace of ignorance and intolerance has grown so toxic they demand to be confronted. Perhaps the forces of bigotry have held the floor long enough and it's time those of us who value comity, concord and tolerance make our voices heard.

Boycott Arizona.

Don't be fooled by pious babblespeak that claims these laws only protect the rights of religious people who object to homosexuality. No one seeks to compel any preacher to perform a same-sex marriage if doing so violates his conscience. But if that pastor works for a bakery during the week, it is none of his business whether the wedding cake he bakes is for John and Jan or John and Joe.

Remember in 2007 when Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis-St. Paul argued for the right to refuse to carry passengers with alcohol because their faith frowns on booze? Then as now, the answer was simple: This is America. Your right to follow religious conscience ends at someone else's right to receive public service in public places. Do your darn job. Or quit and give it to somebody who will.

Boycott Arizona.

Yeah, the Canyon is Grand, but once you've see one hole in the ground, you've seen them all.

Boycott Arizona.

The sun shines in California, too.

Boycott Arizona.

Walt Disney World is offering 30 percent off on rooms at select Disney resorts.

Boycott Arizona.

Sadly, this means you would also have to boycott Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria, Barrio Cafe and other conscientious Arizona businesses that have come out against this spiteful law. Unfortunately for them, they are stuck, geographically speaking, in a state of intolerance. Simple human decency demands we no longer countenance intolerance in silence.

Boycott Arizona.

And because people who oppose gay rights go absolutely bughouse when anyone suggests a parallel between this fight and the Civil Rights Movement, let us close by recalling something Martin Luther King once said.

Segregation, he told marchers in Montgomery, Ala., was on its deathbed and the only remaining question was "how costly the segregationists ... will make the funeral."

What was true of segregation then is true of homophobia now. And apparently homophobes are willing to make its funeral quite costly, indeed.

Fine, then. Let's have at it. Haven't you had enough of conservatives trying to repeal the 20th century? Who's up for this?

Boycott Arizona.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Email, lpitts@miamiherald.com.



By LEONARD PITTS JR.