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Updated Feb 28, 2014 - 8:16 am

I Got 5 On It: Worst black eyes in Arizona's history

Over the past seven years since I've moved to Arizona, I've fallen in love with this state.

It is a state filled with great people, good food and incredible events. Yet, Arizona's best isn't always presented to the rest of the nation, mostly because of our politicians.

Here is a list of five things Arizona politicians have done to soil this state's reputation.

1) Martin Luther King's Holiday.

(AP photo)

This is the one Arizona has never fully recovered from. A federal holiday was created to take effect in 1986 to honor the great civil rights leader's birthday. Arizona, and several other states, balked at creating the same holiday on the state level.

The state legislature voted against its creation. In May 1986, Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbit used an executive order to create Martin Luther King Day. Evan Mecham promised to repeal the Babbit created holiday while he was running for governor. Once he was in office, he fulfilled that promise saying, "King doesn't deserve a holiday."

Mecham's decision brought protests to the state, conventions were canceled and several people (including Stevie Wonder) called for an outright boycott of Arizona. Rap Group Public Enemy even wrote a song called "By The Time I Get To Arizona" in response to the debacle.

The issue was put on the ballot in 1990 and it failed overwhelmingly. More than 75 percent voted against creating Martin Luther King Day. This cost Arizona the 1993 Super Bowl.It was moved to Pasadena, Calif. Arizona officially recognized Martin Luther King Day in 1992.

Weirdly enough, Arizona was not the last state to recognize MLK Day as a holiday. That distinction goes to New Hampshire, who finally adopted it in 1999. The state of South Carolina was the last to offer it as a paid state holiday in 2000.

2) Senate Bill 1062

(AP Photo)

This is the latest example. SB 1062 was intended to protect religious rights and the free exercise thereof. But, because of a provision was included in the bill's language that protected business owners from discrimination lawsuits if they have sincere religious beliefs, it become known as the "Right to Refuse Service Bill."

SB 1062 comes at a time when public opinion polls have shifted in favor of things like gay marriage, now legal 17 states. Several other states have marriage cases pending in federal courts. The first openly gay athlete, Jason Collins, has played in a game. The first openly gay football player, Michael Sam, could be drafted by the league this spring.

Despite Governor Brewer's veto of SB1062, this bill still did and will continue to do damage to the state's image.

Many will still see Arizona as intolerant.

3) Senate Bill 1070

(AP Photo)

Largely labeled as the anti-immigration or anti-Latino bill, it was mostly struck down by the Supreme Court but not after it left a stain around Arizona. The bill, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010 would have allowed the police to ask people to prove their citizenship. SB 1070 was seen as being racially motivated since this bill targeted primarily Latinos.

The Supreme Court ruled that most of SB 1070 was preempted by federal law. By that point, the damage to Arizona's reputation had already been done.

4) Sheriff Joe violates civil rights

(AP Photo)

Last year, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was found guilty in federal court of violating the Constitutional rights of Latino drivers during his illegal immigration sweeps. This was just another black eye in a state that was already perceived as being inhospitable to Latinos.

The lawsuit will cost taxpayers $21 million. The damage to the state's reputation because of it may actually be worse.

5) Brewer points her finger at the president

(AP Photo)

Many people cheered this because they don't love President Barack Obama. Fine. But this image went viral and it furthered the image of Arizona being the Wild West. Some like that.

NBC's Chuck Todd doesn't. He said Arizona has this "horrendous reputation as sort of the state that is just the last to accept social change."

The Arizona I know and love is not that at all, even if people like Chuck Todd think it is. The sad part is he's not alone. The good news is that we always have a chance to change it at the ballot box.

About the Author

Rob spent his formative years growing up in Massachusetts, but after graduating from Emerson College in Boston, he's had the privilege of living in Florida, New Orleans and New Mexico. Rob & his wife Amy have lived in Phoenix since 2006 when he joined KTAR. Rob is passionate about our freedom and rights -- something he learned to love while growing up in the Boston area.


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