A satire story published by the National Review claimed that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had signed off on a bill to create mandatory gay-to-straight conversion therapy in schools — the only problem is people took this satire story seriously and it threatened to go viral.
The National Review claimed that, working with the very real ex-gay therapy group People Can Change (an organization for adults built around the choose to change lie), Arizona would require all gay kids in public schools to go through mandatory ex-gay therapy.
The story began to creep through popular Internet blogs and journalists were scrambling to see where this bill had come from. It was, of course, a hoax. No such law exists, as both the Brewer administration and People Can Change were forced to clarify.
“It’s a completely phony and vile report, and its authors should be ashamed,” Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder is quoted as saying, while a statement on the People Can Change site says:
People Can Change does not provide programs or services for minors. We are a peer-led support organization of men who have personally experienced significant change from unwanted same-sex attractions ourselves and who now share our experience and give support to other adults who voluntarily seek similar change.
Why did people take this story seriously? Well, based on Arizona’s recent history, it sadly doesn’t sound out of the realm of possibility. Here are just 7 examples of ridiculous stories coming out of Arizona that make it hard to tell fact from fiction:
1. Arizona’s SB 1070 Anti-Immigration Law — Arizona’s anti-immigration law really needs no introduction. While supporters may argue it merely imposes restrictions that the federal government should already be enforcing, the evidence of racial bias behind the bill is at this stage undeniable, its negative monetary impact dramatic, its ability to break up families disturbing and the slew of anti-minority legislation that has grown from Arizona’s immigration law even more damning.
2. Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies Class — In 2011, a law went into effect that would ban classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government and resentment toward a race or class of people,” and prohibits courses designed “primarily for students of a particular ethnic group and those that advocate ethnic solidarity rather than treat students as individuals.” In effect, it bans all ethnic studies and prevents Americans from having an informed discussion on their heritage, despite the clear benefits of ethnic studies programs.
3. Arizona Immigration Law Says Lack of a Foreskin is Proof of Citizenship — In addition to spawning the above aggressive attack on Arizona’s ethnic minorities, there were specific clauses within the original bill that were so ludicrous they need mentioning in their own right. In particular, one clause in the bill makes a certificate of circumcision proof of American citizenship for presidential candidates. This was highly criticized because it appears to privilege male candidates of a Judeo-Christian heritage and further feeds into Arizona’s antagonism toward minorities.
4. Brewer’s Personal War on Same-Sex Domestic Partner Benefits — One of Governor Jan Brewer’s administration’s first acts was to pass a bill to rescind domestic partnership benefits for state employees in same-sex relationships, arguing that there wasn’t enough money to pay couples and that the move wasn’t discriminatory because the administration wasn’t offering domestic partnership benefits to non-married opposite sex couples.
Same-sex couples sued, saying that because they aren’t able to marry in the state this definitely is discrimination, and secured a preliminary injunction against the law. Successive courts ruled that the administration had discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. The Brewer administration took the fight all the way to the United States Supreme Court — who dismissed the appeal in June. Due to the fact that the injunction putting the law on hold was only a preliminary one, the case must now work its way back through the courts so that a permanent injunction can be issued.
5. Arizona Bill Means Students Must Swear Loyalty to God in Order to Graduate — Not content to aggressively pursue Arizona’s immigrant community, Arizona lawmakers in early January filed a bill that would require students to take an oath swearing to defend the Constitution, which ended with the phrase “So help me God.” This was criticized, and indeed heavily protested, by a number of groups, from secular and atheist organizations who said this was attempting to force religiosity on students, to faith minorities whose deities are not covered by the word “God.” A separate measure filed at roughly the same time would also have required children to say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, a move that was called jingoistic.
6. Birther Arizona Secretary of State Threatens to Keep Obama off the Ballot – Secretary of State Ken Bennett, ahead of the 2012 elections, told a conservative radio talk show host that he wasn’t convinced that President Barack Obama was really born in the United States and threatened to keep Obama off the ballot in November unless Hawaii state could prove the President’s citizenship, despite the massive amounts of evidence that had already been provided.
7. Arizona Law Bans Planned Parenthood from Contracting with Medicaid — Arizona state recently passed the misleadingly titled “The Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act,” and thereby blocked Medicaid family planning funds from being accessed by health organizations that provide abortions. This effectively prevented low-income Medicaid recipients from choosing Planned Parenthood as a health and family planning provider. The law was overturned earlier this year by federal Judge Neil Wake, who said the law appeared to be nothing more than an attempt by Arizona legislature to disqualify Planned Parenthood from state and federal funding — a tactic that has been employed in other states. Arizona’s administration is appealing that decision.
A word to the Brewer administration then: if you don’t want to have to issue clarifications on stories like the hoax mandatory ex-gay therapy for kids law, don’t create policy that is so aggressively antagonistic and, indeed, ignorant it seems like satire in and of itself.
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