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Editorial: The loose moral lynch mob in the legislature

Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 19, 1999
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Unmarried couples and homosexuals beware.

State legislators at play in the only garden where debates over good and evil can end in policies that slap cities across the state are taking aim at homosexual and unmarried couples.

Uberconservatives, more throwbacks to another decade than responsible state representatives, are backing a bill that would strip same-sex or unmarried partners of government insurance benefits. Tucson, and indeed all the towns in Pima County now offer same-sex and unmarried couple benefits.

What the arguments of the proposal's proponents lack in logic or concern for public interest, they amply make up for in sheer vividness of homophobia and disgust for couples "cohabiting" out of wedlock.

"It is critical to our nation's health and survival to restore social virtue and purity to our state and nation," Rep. Karen Johnson (R-Mesa) has said.

The woman who described homosexuality as "disgustingly disturbing" had also this mandate for the state:

"Public policy must be established by which promiscuous heterosexual activity and homosexual activity is firmly resisted."

The proponents of the bill make no pretext of their aim. They do not bother to speak of cutting government costs, nor circumventing potential benefit fraud. They simply want to erect a moral order directed from the state capitol.

Rather than discussing the bill on its merits - and buried beneath the bickering there are merits - legislators have used the bill as their own private soapbox, a springboard for proselytizing their personal views at the waste of taxpayer time and money.

Because this bill is birthed in this ignominious war, it cannot and should not become law. Indeed, Gov. Jane Dee Hull, Republican though she is, has said she is poised with a veto stamp.

So much more the shame, because a similar measure with a truly civic-minded intent may have preceded positive change. A bill banning benefits to unmarried couples should spark more intelligent debate about recognizing homosexual marriages.

Certainly there are different degrees of relationship commitments that may merit different manners of recognition in terms of benefits, as conservatives argue. But this only serves to make the wrong of disallowing homosexual marriages all the more glaring - gays are banned from expressing this gradation of commitment and therein lies the injustice.

But there is no chance this time around of even coming close to considering this. Instead we must hear of loose morals, and how "gay bowel disease" justifies homophobia and hope for legislators truer to civic interests the next time around.