What’s With Arizona??

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Arizona State Flag

Maybe it’s in the water. Maybe it’s the heat. Whatever it is, it’s bringing out the worst in the people of Arizona. I didn’t even realize that the governor, Jan Brewer, signed a bill into law last September denying benefits to domestic partners of state employees. The new law, which takes effect October 1, redefines “dependent” and excludes  coverage for domestic partners, including heterosexual partners, children of domestic partners, disabled adult dependents, and full time students over 22 who are claimed as dependents.

Interestingly enough, the University of Arizona has decided to reinstate benefits to domestic partners, using funds separate from state money, in order to remain competitive in attracting talent. According to the Arizona Daily Star, about 20 employees of the University left because of the repeal of domestic partner benefits and some job offers were rejected for the same reason.

I’ve always seen the offering of benefits to domestic partners and other dependents as a way to get more people insured in America. Without those benefits, many people will not have health insurance at all. Why shouldn’t a person be able to cover more than herself on her policy if she is willing to pay the family premium? In fact, I think insurance policies ought to cover adult children indefinitely. There’s a terrible gap in insurance coverage between 22-year-olds and those who have finally established their careers to the point where they get employee benefits.

Nor do I think people should be forced to marry just so they can share a family insurance plan. It’s not the place of the state to pry into what kind of relationship domestic partners have.

This stinginess on the part of the Arizona legislators is only part of negative picture being painted of Arizonans. Besides signing into law the new immigration law that allows law enforcement officials  to request proof of legal immigration, residency, or citizenship of anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant, the governor also signed a bill that bans ethnic studies classes in the state’s public schools. The new law (see PDF) bans classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” (In Tucson alone, where the school district is 56 percent Hispanic, there are approximately 1,500 high school students enrolled in ethnic studies classes.)*

In other words, students are going to be discouraged from being proud of their ethnic heritage. I’m assuming that anything that might promote resentment toward the majority (white) population will also be discouraged (such as telling the truth about certain parts of history). And since when did ethnic study classes promote the overthrow of the U.S. government? I thought it was mainly the Christian militia nuts who advocated that.

As if all this weren’t enough, there is the recent brouhaha over one public elementary school’s decision to paint over the faces of “ethnic” schoolchildren on a mural outside of the school so that they would all be white. Why? Because people were yelling racial epithets at it as they drove by.  (Drive-by harassment.) Apparently that action has been reversed, but the fact that they would do it in the first place is beyond belief. Mind you, these were pictures of actual students who attend the school. (See Huffington Post story for more details.)

I realize that the eyes of the media are on Arizona right now and that equally absurd things go on everywhere, but it does seem that Arizona has a racism (not to mention a homophobia) problem.  And the fact that it has a high number of immigrants shouldn’t be an excuse for the prejudice. Some (most) people don’t like change, and this is a changing world. In spite of the United States’ relatively restrictive immigration policy, it still has a lot of immigrants. And they are having babies. OMG!

Soon whites won’t be the majority anymore, and then what will they do?

I guess what they are trying to do in Arizona.

* Source: Feminist Majority Foundation’s Feminist News

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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