Ethan Orr brands himself on his campaign website as a leader who “has worked across party lines” and will “bring people together to create community solutions.” It’s easy to see why his branding has gained currency — but with a little digging into his record, it’s just as easy to see how hollow it is.
The representative for Legislative District 9, who is running for re-election this November, seemed to be walking his talk back in February when he stopped in with state Sen. Steve Farley at Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson. Reacting to SB 1062, a bill that would have allowed businesses the right to refuse service to customers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, Rocco’s put up a sign in defiance of the bill’s bigotry: “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona lawmakers.” The gesture of protest was soon in the news and spreading through social media, receiving accolades from people who thought it was the perfect response to a terrible bill. Orr and Farley decided to pay the pizzeria a visit, Orr carrying a print-out of the Senate vote that showed his opposition to the bill.
A little digging into Ethan Orr’s record reveals a legislator who doesn’t stand for LGBTQ rights or reproductive justice.
Unfortunately, there’s more to Orr’s record on LGBTQ issues than this story. Orr was absent from the list of sponsors when LD 9’s other representative, Victoria Steele, introduced SB 1443, another bill that addressed discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — but this time prohibiting, rather than allowing, discrimination. The same goes for SCR 1012, a bill Steele and other legislators introduced to recognize same-sex marriage. Orr stood up to a bill that would have allowed more wrongs, but his inaction on SB 1443 and SCR 1012 leaves voters to wonder if that’s the limit of his concerns.
Orr is also credited for voting in favor of Gov. Brewer’s Medicaid expansion. But given Brewer’s threat to veto all other legislation until other Republicans fell in line with her — and her promises to help those who did fall in line through the support of her Arizona’s Legacy PAC — Orr’s positions when there are no unusual incentives at stake might be more telling. And his positions look dismal when it comes to women’s health.
In a 2012 candidate questionnaire, Orr, in response to a question about employer coverage for contraception, answered that “the benefits that employers choose to extend or not to extend to their employees should be a decision made by the business. Individual workers know what mix of benefits, health or otherwise, that they want and they will seek the employers who offer them.” In the same questionnaire, he said that he supports Arizona’s infamous 20-week abortion ban. Worse yet, in early 2013 he signed a proclamation on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade that he and other signatories “shall make every effort” to stop abortion “until the decisional interpretations of the United States Constitution” reverse the Roe decision.
That extreme position explains Orr’s yes vote on HB 2284, which permits the Arizona Department of Health Services to inspect abortion clinics unannounced and without a warrant. It also explains why he is the only LD 9 candidate to be endorsed by Arizona Right to Life — an endorsement he doesn’t advertise on his own website. (In fact, visitors to his website will find little more than safe generalizations about non-polarizing issues like education and jobs — far less than what they will find on his opponents’ websites.)
The other LD 9 candidates, Victoria Steele and Randall Friese, are both endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and both took the time to share their thoughts on this blog in recent interviews. As Friese described Orr, “He has allowed himself to be characterized [as a moderate] and does nothing to refute or support it. His views on guns show that he is not a moderate. He has a greater than 90 percent rating from the NRA and voted for the ‘guns everywhere’ bill, which the governor vetoed. He signed a proclamation that said he would overturn Roe v. Wade and supports [fetal] personhood.”
Steele, an incumbent candidate for LD 9, described the Orr she’s known in the legislature: “The vast majority of his votes are with his GOP colleagues, and the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature are dead set against a woman’s right to privacy and to be able to make important life decisions about whether or when to become a parent. At best, my opponent won’t advocate for or protect women — at worst, he makes decisions that harm women.”
Neither the best nor the worst that Orr has to offer would be good news for reproductive justice. Let’s hope for good news in November when the results for LD 9 are in.