Unpopular ideas and why they're worth protecting

I've been thinking a lot about the situation in the SW United States. You know the one, Senate Bill 1062 which was passed by the Arizona Legislature last week and most recently vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, ironically, at the behest of at least three state senators who "made a bad decision in a rushed process." The process was pandering to the state's constituency that no longer thinks the right is far right enough. The bill, which at two pages in length is a nice contrast to the usual Federal bills that obfuscate by expanding to thousands of pages, allows for the "Exercise of religion [which] means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF RELIGION, INCLUDING THE ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief." Of course that is meant to be a shield against litigation and, in effect, allowing American business to discriminate. 

At first, I had the same general reaction of as a lot of the world; one of shock and dismay at the seemingly backwards step away from the tolerance and compassion that this country has worked so hard for in the last half-century. Upon further reflection, however, I can understand it. I don't support it by any measure. But I can see the value of a government that would allow such unpopular opinions to not only exist but be heard and legislated. Change only occurs if unpopular opinions are allowed to be disseminated and considered. That is how progress is defined. Benjamin Franklin stated that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. No one is forced to live in Arizona, Massachusetts, California, Texas nor any state which upholds strongly held beliefs on one side of the sociopolitical spectrum or another. In our republic democracy, we are free to live, vote, or legislate to our own values. And if Governor Brewer's veto stands, isn't that democracy, complete with checks and balances at work?