Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will go down in history as "Jan Crow" if she signs into law a bill allowing businesses to deny service to gays, LGBT rights activist Wayne Besen warned Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV, the founder of Truth Wins Out said the legislation would create "a situation where anybody can deny anybody services and take the law into their own hands and create anarchy and chaos — and then justify it by simply saying, 'oh, it's my sincerely held religious belief.'"
Brewer as of Wednesday had not yet decided whether she'll sign or veto controversial Senate Bill 1062. Besen charged that the bill is "a Jim Crow law."
"If Jan Brewer does not veto, then she's going to go down in history as Jan Crow," he said. "What this does is it gives people the right to justify discrimination . . . Nobody's for this except wing nuts and extremists."
"It's a very slippery slope, and anybody can be affected once we go down the road of discrimination based on so-called religious beliefs that are really just a justification for bigotry," he added. "Nobody's safe with this law . . . That's why there is so much opposition."
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Besen noted that the nation has "been through this" before.
"We don't want to get into a situation where private businesses turn people away for who they are," he said. "If you're open to the public, you damn well better serve all of the public."
Besen related that as a youngster his father owned a pizza restaurant in a conservative part of Florida and that "I've served neo-Nazis pizza before."
"We had Klansmen come in every day that talked about it," he said. "We knew that they liked our pizza, we served them . . . We didn't believe what they stood for, we didn't like them, but it showed them that we're open to the public, we serve all the public, and that's what it is."
He added that if the family didn't want to serve everybody, "we would've created a private club . . . There's a difference between religious liberty and religious bigotry."
The Arizona bill, he argued, says "'we want you to send this message to certain people that they're not welcome."
"This is not what America's about, this is not the best idea," he said. "We can do better . . . There's a lot of beliefs I don't respect, and nobody has to respect mine, but they have to respect my right to believe them, and that's what makes this country great."
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