Mr. Smith went to Washington in 1939. There, an idealistic, small-town do-gooder faced off against a mendacious Senate working on behalf of shady power-brokers to push industry-written legislation that would enrich its favored special interests.
Because Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was a movie (starring a then-relatively unknown Jimmy Stewart), Mr. Smith won. At the end of a heroic, 24-hour filibuster, Smith challenged the U.S. Senate to turn away from special-interest lawmaking:
"There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties," he said.
Seventy-five years later we have House of Cards and Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood, a back-room dealing, Capitol Hill anti-hero who says things like, "It's so refreshing to work with someone who'll throw a saddle on a gift horse rather than look it in the mouth."
There is a pleasant fiction--mostly propagated by lawmakers themselves--that our representative democracy is made up of Mr. Smiths, all working in earnest, on their own intellectual and moral steam, for the best interests of their constituents. But Americans know their politics skew toward the Underwood style: Influence is traded for campaign contributions and legislation is routinely written with industry, ideology or both in mind.
The 2014 Idaho Legislature has been an object lesson in how bills dealing with seemingly fringe issues can swiftly come to dominate the session. While state politics pundits had expected debates about education funding, Medicaid expansion, public lands, even the minimum wage would crowd the Statehouse stage, so-called "religious freedom" bills, guns-on-campus and the "ag-gag" law have stolen the spotlight.
Instead of focusing on the kitchen-table concerns of Idahoans, the Legislature has spent nearly half its session on right-wing public policy experiments that share more than a passing resemblance to similar bills in a slew of states, spanning more than a decade, and written by, for, or with a tangled web of ultraconservative special interest groups. Here Boise Weekly takes a stab at mapping their DNA.
In October 2012, news broke that milk cows had been brutally mistreated by employees at Bettencourt Dairies, in Hansen, Idaho (BW, Citydesk, "Graphic Video Shows Culture of Cruelty," Oct. 10, 2012). The abuse was documented by activists with Mercy For Animals--an L.A.-based animal-rights group--working undercover for months as employees at the dairy. A graphic video showed workers beating and neglecting the cows, whose milk went up the supply chain to fast-food giants, including Burger King, Wendy's and In-N-Out.
Outrage over the investigation led the companies to suspend their indirect relationships with Bettencourt Dairies and resulted in the termination of five employees, who faced misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, carrying fines up to $5,000 and six months of jail time.
Mercy For Animals has conducted more than two dozen such investigations around the country, and according to MFA Director of Investigations Matt Rice, who led the Bettencourt investigation, "every single time our documenters get hired, they find things that shock most Americans."
"It makes it very plain that there's a huge problem in the factory farming industry," he told BW.
A similar story unfolded in 2008, when workers were caught on camera abusing--sometimes sexually--pigs in an Iowa sow barn. The mistreatment was captured undercover by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and resulted in the arrest of one employee. According to a 2013 Mother Jones piece, it was the first criminal livestock neglect conviction from a Midwestern farm and only the seventh animal abuse conviction in the American meat industry's long history.
While Midwest meat and dairy producers instituted some reforms in the wake of the Iowa investigation, the PETA revelations threw the industry into a panic. With the increasing use of smartphones, anyone--anywhere--could be documenting similar incidences of abuse. Lacking the ability to silence whistleblowers after the fact, agribusiness looked for a way to stop the investigations before they could start--and it didn't have to look far.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) had already crafted a tool that could be used to drop a veil of secrecy around factory farms. In January 2004, the nonprofit--which "works to advance limited government, free markets and federalism at the state level"--approved a piece of "model legislation" crafted by industry members on its Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force called the "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act."
AETA, written during the period of post-9/11 paranoia in which then-Vice President Dick Cheney claimed "eco-terrorists" were the largest domestic threat to the United States, was a sweeping measure that outlawed individuals from "depriving the owner of an animal or natural resource from participating in an animal or natural resource activity" by obstructing use; holding it for ransom; "alter[ing] its condition or usefulness that the value ... is substantially reduced"; and providing training, housing, funding or materials that could in any way be used to support animal or eco-terrorism.
Notably, among the specifically prohibited acts included in AETA were "entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner; entering or remaining on the premises of an animal or research facility if the person or organization: had notice that the entry was forbidden; or, received notice to depart but failed to do so."
According to the Center for Media and Democracy, which maintains a massive clearinghouse of leaked ALEC documents at ALECexposed.org, members of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force include (or have included) energy giants ExxonMobil, Duke and Peabody; major manufacturers International Paper and General Motors (which suspended its membership in 2012); Koch Industries; and ag leader J.R. Simplot Co.
AETA didn't get much play in statehouses around the country until 2011, when Minnesota lawmakers in both the House and Senate introduced bills parroting the model bill's prohibition on "entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means" without permission from the owner.
According to Mother Jones, the Minnesota bill came after workers were caught on film "throwing sick, injured and surplus birds into grinding machines while still alive." Similar--and in some cases nearly identical--bills to Minnesota's soon followed in Florida and Iowa, all tracing their lineage to AETA.
In 2012, Utah joined the "ag-gag" states, a term coined in a 2011 column by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, with its HB 187.
According to the Utah bill, a person is guilty of "agricultural operation interference" if that person "without consent from the owner of the agricultural operation, or the owner's agent, knowingly or intentionally records an image of, or sound from the agricultural operation by leaving a recording device on the agricultural operation; obtains access to an agricultural operation under false pretenses; [and] applies for employment at an agricultural operation with the intent to record an image of, or sound from, the agricultural operation."
Idaho's ag-gag statute, which was signed into law by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Feb. 28 (BW, Citydesk, "Otter Signs Ag-Gag Bill Into Law," Feb. 28, 2014), making Idaho the seventh state to do so, reads much the same:
"A person commits the crime of interference with agricultural production if the person knowingly: Is not employed by an agricultural production facility and enters an agricultural production facility by force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass ... obtains employment with an agricultural production facility by force, threat, or misrepresentation with the intent to cause economic or other injury to the facility's operations ... enters an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public and, without the facility owner's express consent or pursuant to judicial process or statutory authorization, makes audio or video recordings of the conduct of an agricultural production facility's operations."
Violation of the law would carry a fine up to $5,000 and as much as a year in jail--ironically, a stiffer penalty than faced by the employee convicted of animal cruelty in the 2008 Iowa case.
Otter, himself a former longtime employee of J.R. Simplot Co., signed the SB 1337, saying it "is about agriculture producers being secure in their property and their livelihood."
Opponents--including more than 100,000 people who signed an anti-ag-gag petition delivered to the Governor's Office on Feb. 26, as well as Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukaya, who said SB 1337 "would limit transparency"--fear the law will have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights, as well as jeopardize food safety.
"Gov. Otter betrayed the will of his constituents and the majority of Americans who strongly oppose efforts to criminalize whistleblowers who dare to expose cruelty and corruption on Idaho's farms," Mercy for Animals Executive Director Nathan Runkle wrote in a statement following the bill's signing. "Clearly Gov. Otter knows that Idaho's factory farmers have a lot to hide from the American people if he is willing to go to such despicable lengths to conceal their cruel and abusive practices."
Equally clear is the clout enjoyed by Idaho's $2.4 billion dairy industry. According to data from the nonprofit National Institute on Money in State Politics, and reported Feb. 27 by KPVI Channel 6, one-third of Idaho senators and one-fifth of state representatives took campaign contributions from various dairy interests in 2012. Of the 23 senators who voted in favor of SB 1337, 12 benefited from dairy largesse; while, in the House, 14 of the 56 representatives who cast aye votes took dairy dollars. All told, according to figures from NIMSP, ag industry groups funneled more than $540,000 into campaigns, lobby efforts and other causes in Idaho during 2012.
As for the governor, he took a combined $5,500 from the Idaho Milk Producers, Idaho Dairymen's Association and former Idaho State Veterinarian Greg Ledbetter, a Magic Valley dairy farmer.
"It really is a transparent attempt by the industry to keep their cruel practices hidden from the public," MFA investigations chief Rice told BW in the days leading up to the bill's signing. "What these industries want to do is have the power to put you in prison for taking a picture against their rules. It violates freedom of speech and freedom of the press. [SB 1337] will be challenged in court and it will cost taxpayers a lot of money."
April 16 will mark the seventh anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, in which Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, gunned down 49 people on campus, killing 32 and wounding 17. In the seven years--and nearly 20 mass shootings--since, Cho's spree at Virginia Tech remains the deadliest single-shooter event in United States history.
In the horror of the aftermath were calls for strengthened gun laws and improved mental health services but also concerted--albeit much quieter--efforts among some conservative groups to broaden the availability of guns, specifically on campuses.
As with ag-gag, the American Legislative Exchange Council was quick to supply a tool for state legislators in the form of a model bill: the Campus Personal Protection Act.
Adopted by ALEC's Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Task Force in May 2008, the CPPA model bill summary stated simply:
"This Act amends state criminal codes and concealed carry laws to remove prohibitions on the possession or carrying of handguns on the campuses of postsecondary educational institutions by individuals issued valid licenses to carry concealed handguns. Also limits the application of rules and regulations established by governing boards of postsecondary educational institutions on the possession of firearms on campuses by individuals issued valid licenses to carry concealed handguns."
ALEC's Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Task Force was later replaced by the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which crafted the model bills that would later become known as "Stand Your Ground" or "Castle Laws," as well as a suite of restrictive voter ID laws that made headlines across the country in the 2012 presidential election. Controversy surrounding both pieces of legislation--particularly in the wake of the February 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and shooter George Zimmerman's use of the Stand Your Ground defence--prompted ALEC to disband the task force that same year. The National Rifle Association had served as corporate co-chair of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force only a year before, in 2011.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states introduced some form of guns-on-campus legislation in 2013 and, as of January 2014, six states allow concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses: Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.
Utah, however, is the only state that specifically strips public colleges and universities of the authority to ban concealed carry--a provision that directly mimics the intent of the ALEC bill's summary, and one shared by the guns-on-campus bill currently cruising through the Idaho Legislature.
According to the Utah law, "Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity [defined later as including "public school districts, public schools and state institutions of higher education"] may not enact, establish, or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property."
By comparison, the Idaho version, SB 1254, states:
"Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city, agency, board or any other political subdivision of this state may adopt or enforce any law, rule, regulation, or ordinance which regulates in any manner the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, transportation, carrying or storage of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition."
A later section in the bill strikes out a paragraph giving the boards of any state college, university, professional-technical school or community college the "authority ... to regulate in matters relating to firearms," replacing it with a new section stipulating that while school officials have some power to make rules regarding firearms, they "shall not extend to regulating or prohibiting the otherwise lawful possession, carrying or transporting of firearms or ammunition to persons" who have an "enhanced" concealed carry permit.
"That screams ALEC to me, the way you just described it," Nick Surgey, director of research at the Center for Media and Democracy, told BW.
The office of Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie, who introduced the bill, did not respond to BW's request for comment on the origins of SB 1254, but according to former BW staffer Andrew Crisp, writing as a fellow with Boise State University public policy journal The Blue Review, McKenzie told a crowd at Boise State's downtown campus Feb. 25 that he had not been pressured by Senate leadership, nor had legislators been courted with cash contributions by the NRA to push the campus carry bill.
While campaign finance records show that indeed McKenzie has not received campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association, he did turn over introduction of SB 1245 in the Senate State Affairs Committee to NRA lobbyist Dakota Moore, who made a 40-minute presentation on the bill. Testimony was closed without hearing opposition, including from law enforcement officials across the state--notably, Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson.
"Where is our democracy today when police leaders directly responsible for developing policy and training for your safety are effectively silenced by the chair of a committee who introduced the bill himself?" Masterson wrote in a statement issued after the hearing.
Every university president in the state also stands opposed to the measure, yet it passed the Senate State Affairs Committee 7-2 on party lines--including Huston Republican Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, who voted aye despite expressing concerns about the costs colleges would face should SB 1254 pass. Lodge serves as ALEC's state representative for Idaho.
The guns-on-campus legislation went on to clear the full Senate by a similarly comfortable margin, 25-10 (BW, Citydesk, "Idaho Senate Republicans Push Through Guns on Campus Bill," Feb. 18, 2014).
Mike Nugent, who manages the Research and Legislation Division of the Idaho Legislative Services Office, characterized SB 1254 as "based on kind of a re-write of what the universities brought years ago to prohibit guns on campus."
What's more, Nugent said, it's routine for legislators to look at laws passed in other states and use them as jumping off points for their own bills.
"At least you've got something you can have on paper to move the words around," he said. "Plagiarism at times in this business is an art form. It's not to be frowned on, it's to be lauded."
Though he added, in reference to Idaho's guns-on-campus bill, "I realize the NRA came in and spoke for it."
And despite what Sen. McKenzie said at the Boise State forum, the NRA does more than speak for legislation it supports in Idaho. Money from the powerful gun industry group makes its way into the Gem State--one way or another.
According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics' Open Secrets database on influence and lobbying, the NRA gave $63,850, $120,932 and $250,000 to the Republican Governors Association in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively, making it one of the single largest benefactors of NRA cash.
Based on figures from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, in the 2010 election cycle, the RGA gave $503,449 directly to Idaho: $3,499 to Gov. Otter and $500,000 to the Idaho Republican Party under the "ideology/single issue" category.
That year, RGA contributions to the Idaho GOP represented 56.43 percent of all funds flowing to the party, ranking Idaho 12th in the nation for total RGA funding. The Idaho Republican Party, meanwhile, ranked seventh in the nation among party committees receiving money from the RGA.
It turns out "ideology/special interest" contributions far and away make up the largest percentage of the Idaho GOP's economic heft: The next largest source of contributions in 2010 came from the finance, insurance and real estate sector ($103,750) followed by contributions from candidates themselves ($102,272). A total of 75 institutions donated to the Idaho Republican Party in 2010--compared to 104 individuals--and they accounted for 74.8 percent of the party's total contributions, or $663,719--the bulk of that directly from the RGA. A full 67 percent of all donations came from out of state.
Beyond that, the NRA did directly donate to Idaho politicians in 2010--a total of $7,500, ranking Idaho 24th in the nation in terms of contributions, according to NIMSP. Otter alone received $4,500, ranking him the sixth-highest grossing individual state-level candidate in the country. Other Idaho lawmakers to receive NRA money in 2010 included Sens. Bart Davis and Russell Fulcher, and Reps. Judy Boyle, Mike Moyle and Ken Roberts, the latter whom resigned from the House in 2012 to serve on the four-member Idaho Tax Commission.
Meanwhile, the NRA has been active in promoting SB 1254 through its various outlets, going so far as to refer to the measure as "an important NRA-backed self-defense bill" in a Feb. 26 action alert calling on supporters to contact members of the Idaho House State Affairs Committee, which voted 11-3 to move the bill to the full House Feb. 28 with a "do pass" recommendation--after six hours of overwhelmingly oppositional testimony.
"If you think this bill was a collaborative bill and we were part of the process, it wasn't," former Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb told the House State Affairs Committee, speaking on behalf of Boise State University (BW, Citydesk, "GOP Majority on House State Affairs Approves Idaho Guns on Campus Measure," Feb. 28, 2014). "It was a silo process. My suggestion is this: Instead of ramming this bill through, invite all the stakeholders to the table."
The bill now heads to the House, where its passage in the coming weeks is widely expected.
Much of the political theater animating the 2014 Idaho Legislature has been played out in opposition to Republican lawmakers' continued refusal to even consider adding the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's Human Rights Act. To date, more than 120 protesters have been arrested at the Capitol for staging demonstrations in favor of adding the words. Clad in black shirts that read "Add the 4 Words Idaho," they have stood, hands over their mouths in reference to the Legislature's eight-year-long failure to give so much as hearing to the Add the Words proposal, silently blocking entrances to legislative chambers and assembling in long lines through the Statehouse (BW, Citydesk, "More Add the Words Arrests at Statehouse," Feb. 27, 2014).
At the same time Add the Words fell (again) on deaf ears, lawmakers took up two pieces of legislation that would not only have effectively served as anti-Add the Words measures but would have legally protected a broad field of discriminatory practices based on religious belief.
House Bills 426 and 427 caused a firestorm of controversy when they were introduced by Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker in January (BW, Citydesk, "GOP Gives New Life to Religious Freedom Bill," Feb. 5, 2014).
HB 426 would amend state code to protect professionals from having their licenses, certifications or registration revoked for refusing to provide services or take oaths that violate their "sincerely held religious beliefs." At the same time, the bill would protect expression of religious beliefs, providing faith-based services and making business-related decisions such as employment, client selection and financial decisions based on religious beliefs.
HB 427 aims to protect religious freedom by limiting government's ability to "burden a person's exercise of religion" only if such burden is "essential to further a compelling governmental interest" or the "the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." What's more, a person could use HB 427 either as a claim or defense against another person or the state itself if their "exercise of religion" was burdened.
Critics immediately pointed out that taken together or separately, Luker's "religious freedom" bills would give legal justification--and protections--for vast inequalities in virtually every area of life, from housing and employment to nonemergency health care and basic services, even including dining in a restaurant.
Beyond that, opponents said, HB 427 would open cities that have adopted LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances to lawsuits from citizens who claimed abiding by the laws violated their beliefs. So far seven Idaho cities, including Boise, have enacted local ordinances protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination in housing, employment and education.
"The city of Boise is prepared to defend our ordinance. We will not allow a segment of our community to be unprotected," Boise City Council President Maryann Jordan said during testimony on the bill, adding that Luker's measures "codified discrimination and could negate [anti-discrimination] ordinances across the state."
Luker seemed dumbfounded that anyone would interpret his bills in such a way and, though it's all but certain his bills won't resurface this session after being lambasted by hundreds of opponents in a three-plus-hour round of testimony, he issued a statement in late Februrary expressing his disappointment.
"The intent of the bill was to provide a shield to protect the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment in light of the variety of increasing government mandates. However, many misinterpreted the intent to be a sword for discrimination," he wrote.
Luker wasn't alone in finding so-called "religious freedom" legislation a hard sell with voters. About a week after Luker's announcement, Arizona State Republican Sen. Bob Worsley was backtracking from his co-sponsorship of a similar bill passed through the Arizona Statehouse but vetoed Feb. 26 by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. His statement, signed by two fellow senators, apparently drew from the same source material as Luker's.
"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," Worsley and his colleagues wrote.
The similarities between the Idaho and Arizona bills don't end there--not by a long shot.
First, "Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act" SB 1062, introduced Jan. 10, and Idaho's HB 427, introduced on Jan. 28, contained nearly identical language, down to the stipulation that government can only burden a person's exercise of religion, "In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest [or is] The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest" and setting forth that "a person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defence in a judicial proceeding," whether that violation came from an individual or the government itself.
Nugent, at the Idaho Legislative Services Office, said that's no surprise. Both Arizona's SB 1062 and Idaho's HB 427 were amendments to the same existing statute.
"Years ago [in 2000] there was a legislator in Boise named Grant Ipsen. He felt there needed to be a religious freedom bill, and ironically, they copied Arizona's freedom of religion bill, which they'd passed," Nugent said. "In some respects, it does sound like Rep. Luker's changes were very similar to what Gov. Brewer vetoed in Arizona. You're dealing with the same corpus of a bill."
More than that, the changes Luker and lawmakers in Arizona, Kansas and other states tried to graft onto existing legislation come from a common source--part of a yearslong campaign by right-wing groups to circumvent a range of progressive policies, from birth control coverage in the Affordable Care Act to same-sex marriage, using "religious liberty."
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that despite its use in Native American religious services, peyote is still an illegal substance and not protected by the Free-Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. To protect against future rulings against religious practices, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, establishing specific definitions for religious practice; outlining how, and when, government can infringe on them; and offering a relief for those whose beliefs have been "substantially burdened."
In 1997, after another Supreme Court ruling that the states could not be forced to comply with the RFRA, statehouses around the country--including in Idaho--began enacting their own versions of the law, often copied from the federal statute.
Twenty years later, with the debate over the Affordable Care Act ramping up and conservatives emboldened by their Tea Party-fueled electoral sweep in 2010, the RFRA would become a central weapon in the religious right's culture war arsenal.
It was in 2010 that national conservative faith organization Focus on the Family launched a campaign called "Ignite: An Enduring Cultural Transformation."
In mailers sent to sent to states across the country, including Idaho, Focus on the Family--through its more than three-dozen state-level "family policy councils" like Cornerstone Family Council, based in Eagle--presented a strategy aimed at the "three key areas of the culture war overlap": preparing leaders, promoting values and providing accountability. Under the "promoting values" heading came the explicit call for legislative action to "pass religious liberty amendment."
Arguing that inclusion of birth control in the ACA would "substantially burden" the religious beliefs of many, Focus on the Family worked through its political action affiliate, Citizen Link, to push the North Dakota Religious Liberty Restoration Amendment of 2012.
The text of the ballot measure would occur again and again in so-called "religious freedom" bills in the years to come:
"The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities."
Citizen Link funneled almost $42,000 into the North Dakota Religious Liberty Restoration Amendment Committee, which received a total of nearly $200,000. Despite that support, the ballot initiative went down to defeat 64.02 percent-35.98 percent.
Undaunted, religious freedom bills resurfaced with a vengeance in 2014. A Feb. 26 article in Mother Jones quotes an estimated 15 states considering some form of the legislation.
According to MJ reporter Kevin Drum, the current fascination among conservative legislatures for these bills is more organic than in cases such as voter ID or anti-abortion measures, where "a group like ALEC writes model legislation, and that becomes the basis for laws all over the country." However, the pedigree of both Idaho's and Arizona's religious liberty bills is clear.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera America, Cornerstone Family Council Executive Director Julie Lynde said that while her group is "not following a [legislative] template ... we've been involved with working on the language" of HB 426 and 427. Cornerstone did not return a call requesting comment from BW, but Lynde admitted to Al-Jazeera that "a lot of these battles across the country have been caused by homosexual issues."
That runs counter to Luker's assertion, which he made in an email to BW in early February.
"I do not have an issue with the right of the LGBT community to choose how, with whom and where they choose to live. In fact, despite much discussion in the press and social media to the contrary, the bills that I have sponsored are not directed at that community. They are based upon concern over the growing interference by government mandate in the lives of all people, but particularly those who have religious convictions that are being burdened or ignored by government," Luker wrote.
Luker's defense notwithstanding, anti-gay animus is in the marrow of these bills, and it was inherited from Focus on the Family's agenda. According to a Feb. 24 statement on Citizen Link's website:
"When government elevates sexual orientation to a 'protected status,' what follows has been increasing government coercion and punishment of those people of faith who resist being forced to participate, such as wedding photographers, bakers, florists, bed and breakfast inns, and faith-based adoption agencies, among others, who have found themselves prosecuted and/or penalized in recent years all around the country for taking the Bible's commands about marriage and children seriously. ... Whether or not the Arizona bill gets signed into law, understand this: These laws are a shield to protect everyone's religious freedom, not a sword [emphasis added] to harm gays and lesbians or anyone else."
Just like the language in the bills and the language used to defend them, Arizona's SB 1062--like Idaho's HB 426 and 427--has ties every bit as strong to Focus on the Family.
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a self-described Christian "legal ministry," was open about its role in helping write Arizona's law. Its senior counsel, Doug Napier, even issued a statement following Gov. Brewer's veto.
"Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Today's veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona," Napier wrote.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which started its life as the Alliance Defense Fund, was co-founded in 1994 by James Dobson, the father of Focus on the Family.
The sponsors of Arizona's SB 1062 were tangled up not only with Focus on the Family and ALEC, but--in a bizarre twist--Idaho itself.
Lead sponsor Sen. Steven B. Yarbrough, a lawyer and former Arizona State University official who was first elected to the Arizona House in 2002, leads a group known as the Arizona Values Action Team, "which supports public policy that is pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-school choice and pro-religious liberty."
The Arizona Values Action Team is a state-based wing of the national Values Action Team, which, according to the Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch, was founded in 1998 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, after Focus on the Family founder James Dobson threatened to splinter the Christian right from the Republican Party.
Among the specific aims of VAT is the passage of so-called "religious freedom amendments."
Another of the sponsors of Arizona's bill was Sen. Nancy Barto, whose accomplishments include being named Legislator of the Year by ALEC in 2011.
The third sponsor of the Arizona bill has strong ties to Idaho.
Sen. Bob Worsley, a Brigham Young University graduate and founder of ExecuShare and SkyMall magazine, moved with his family from Utah to Boise when he was 10 years old. Worsley grew up in Boise, graduated from Capital High School in 1974 and married his wife, Christi, who was also raised in Boise, in 1977. The couple retains a summer house in Idaho, and a photo page on Worsley's campaign website features numerous snapshots of the Worsleys huckleberry picking in Cascade, fishing in Stanley and visiting family in Boise.
Worsley served on the executive board of directors for the Institute for American Values--a private, nonpartisan group focused on the "renewal of marriage and family life." One of its former resident scholars is Maggie Gallagher, who heads the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and serves as a board member (and former president) of the National Organization for Marriage. In 2009, NOM spent $1.5 million on ads around the country attacking same-sex marriage--specifically, according to the TV spots, that same-sex marriage supporters "want to change the way I live. ... That means wedding photographers and marriage counselors could be labeled bigots and sued if they oppose working with same-sex couples."
According to Sourcewatch, Gallagher told the New Jersey Star-Ledger, "It's obviously going to happen if gay marriage is the law of the land."
Five years later, Rep. Luker had this to say about the threat facing those like a wedding photographer in New Mexico or a baker in Oregon who refused to provide services to members of the LGBT community: "This is pre-emptive. The issue is coming, whether it's 10 years, or 15 years, or two years."
Though dead this year, if groups like Focus on the Family have anything to say about it, the issue will certainly be back--one way or the other.
Additional reporting by Harrison Berry, Andrew Crisp and George Prentice.