Nine Biased Headlines on Arizona Veto

As was expected, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona last night vetoed SB 1062, which would have clarified guarantees of religious-freedom rights for citizens.

Contrary to its detractors’ disinformation campaign, the bill was quite simple and limited in scope. (It was only two pages; Congress would do well to emulate its brevity if nothing else.) What SB 1062 did was to amend Arizona’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), a law that has been on the books in Arizona for 15 years and was modeled after the federal law of the same name signed by Bill Clinton in 1993.

SB 1062 simply extended Arizona’s RFRA’s religious-liberty protections to individuals and businesses being sued by state or local government or private individuals. It did not create a license for individuals or businesses to refuse service to gay people. It actually never even mentioned sexual orientation. It would have protected the right of people not to be compelled to participate in or provide services for events that they object to on religious grounds, including same-sex weddings. The religious objector, if challenged, would be required to prove in court that his religious freedom was being substantially burdened. (Ramesh linked to some pieces yesterday explaining how the bill actually works.)

However, such nuance was too much for news outlets, which shunned objectivity and were quick to plaster their newspapers and webpages with headlines that were misleading. Here is a short sampling of some of the worst offenders:

1. The Washington Post: “Brewer Kills Bill Allowing Refusal to Serve Gays”

2. The New York Times: “Arizona’s Governor Vetoes Right to Deny Services to Gays”

3. The Chicago Tribune: “Arizona Anti-Gay Bill Vetoed by Governor”

4. The Hill: “Arizona Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill”

5. CNN: “Arizona Gov. Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill”

6. MSNBC: “Arizona Anti-Gay Bill Dies”

7. USA Today: “Arizona Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill”

8. Yahoo News: “Arizona Governor Vetoes Controversial Anti-Gay, ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill”

9. The Week: “Jan Brewer Vetoes Arizona ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill”


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