Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was right to veto an extreme bill that would have allowed companies to refuse service to a wide range of people. This bill was absolutely unacceptable -- and people all over the country and across the political spectrum breathed a sigh of relief when Brewer stopped it from becoming law.
The personal beliefs of any business owner should not give them a free pass to discriminate against anyone -- whether it's lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender patrons who want to shop at their store or female employees who are legally entitled to birth control coverage under the law.
But this didn't start with Arizona, and it won't end with Arizona. This most recent legislation is part of an orchestrated and radical effort to extend religious liberties to corporations -- to treat private businesses like churches under the law, by giving them the right to refuse services, deny health care coverage, and discriminate against people.
Bills like the one in Arizona are still pending in nearly a dozen states; this week, legislation moved forward in Georgia and Missouri. And in less than a month, these issues will play out on the national stage. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on March 25 in a pair of cases by corporations whose owners believe that they should not be required to provide insurance coverage for birth control because they have a religious objection. The owners of these corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, are challenging the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to cover birth control without a copay, just like any other preventive care. Churches and religious groups do not have to cover birth control for their employees; now, corporations want to be able to deny coverage for religious reasons.
If the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby, corporations might not need state laws like the one Governor Brewer vetoed -- they'll take the ruling as a free pass to discriminate, as private businesses pick and choose which laws to follow. This case could turn the clock back on decades of progress and radically reshape the balance our nation has struck to respect individual religious beliefs while protecting everyone's rights and liberties.
It could also have extraordinarily far-reaching consequences. An employer could decide to cover reproductive health care for male employees, but take away birth control coverage for women. A company could refuse to provide insurance coverage for HIV medication. A bank could refuse to give loans to single mothers.
With the debate over the Arizona bill during the last few days, folks across the country have gotten a preview of this extreme agenda, and they don't like what they see. It's clear that this isn't about religious liberties. It's about corporations who want a license to discriminate against people by denying services, taking away birth control coverage, and blocking access to health care. If Governor Jan Brewer can see that this is way too extreme, surely the U.S. Supreme Court can, too.
Follow Cecile Richards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cecilerichards