Arizona Senate to send Brewer gay rights bill - KMSP-TV

Arizona lawmakers, protestors urge veto of SB 1062

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX (AP) -- Republican Gov. Jan Brewer faces intensifying pressure from CEOs, politicians in Washington and state lawmakers in her own party to veto a bill that would allow business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians.

Senate Bill 1062 has set off a political firestorm since the Arizona Legislature passed it last week, with critics denouncing the measure as blatantly discriminatory and embarrassing to the state.

The chorus of opposition has grown each day, and on Monday, three state senators who voted in favor of the bill changed course and said they oppose it. U.S. Sen. John McCain asked Brewer to veto the measure, as did Apple Inc. and the CEO of American Airlines Group Inc.

State Sens. Bob Worsley, Adam Driggs and Steve Pierce sent their letter urging a veto just days after they joined the entire 17-member Senate GOP caucus in voting for the bill.

"I think laws are (already) on the books that we need, and have now seen the ramifications of my vote," Worsley told The Associated Press. "I feel very bad, and it was a mistake."

With the three GOP senators joining all 13 Senate Democrats in opposition, there would be enough votes to defeat the measure in a re-vote. But too much time has passed to allow for reconsideration, and the bill was sent to Brewer in a routine transmittal Monday that was accompanied by "boos" from Senate Democrats.

Brewer now has five working days to sign or veto the bill. She returns from governors association meetings in Washington on Tuesday afternoon.

The governor doesn't comment on pending legislation, but she vetoed a similar measure last year. That action, however, came during an unrelated political standoff, and it's unclear whether she would support or reject this plan.

An estimated 350 people gathered outside the Arizona Capitol on Monday evening in a peaceful protest. They listened to speeches and many held homemade signs in opposition to the bill.

The bill is being pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. The group says the proposal is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts and simply clarifies existing state law.

CAP President Cathi Herrod is urging Brewer to sign the legislation and deriding what she called "fear-mongering" from its opponents.

"The attacks on SB 1062 ... represent precisely why so many people are sick of the modern political debate," Herrod wrote in a weekend posting on the group's website. "Instead of having an honest discussion about the true meaning of religious liberty, opponents of the bill have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks, and irresponsible reporting.

"Our elected leaders have a fundamental duty to protect the religious freedom of every Arizonan, and that's what SB 1062 is all about."

If SB1062 is vetoed, it will be a major defeat for Herrod's group, which is seen as a powerful force on the Arizona political scene. Herrod suffered a similar loss last year when she tried to get the Legislature to include anti-abortion language in a Medicaid expansion bill that Brewer was pushing. That effort angered Brewer, herself a strong opponent of abortion.

With the business community lining up against the latest proposal, Brewer could have cover for a veto. She's worked hard to return Arizona's economy to pre-recession levels with business-friendly incentives and tax cuts.

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Hueget confirmed Monday that the company had reached out to Brewer and urged a veto. Apple announced in November that it would open a manufacturing plant in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa that would employ up to 700 workers.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker also urged Brewer to veto SB1062, in part to prevent damage to the state's economy, which is finally rebounding from the Great Recession. Parker ran Arizona-based US Airways until it merged with Texas-based American last year.

"There is genuine concern throughout the business community that this bill, if signed into law, would jeopardize all that has been accomplished so far," Parker wrote. "Wholly apart from the stated intent of this legislation, the reality is that it has the very real potential of slowing down the momentum we have achieved by reducing the desire of businesses to locate in Arizona and depressing the travel and tourism component of the economy if both convention traffic and individual tourists decide to go elsewhere."

Pierce said he and the others went along to present a solid Republican front, despite misgivings.

"We were uncomfortable with it to start with and went along with it thinking it was good for the caucus," Pierce said. "We really didn't want to vote for it, but we made a mistake and now we're trying to do what's right and correct it."

But their letter also said while the intent of their vote "was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance."

The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

Opponents call it a license to discriminate against gays.

Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona's plan is the only one that has passed. The efforts are stalled in Idaho, Ohio and Kansas.

Republicans stressed that the bill is not about discrimination but protecting religious freedom. They frequently cite the case of a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to take wedding pictures of a gay couple. They said Arizona needs a law to protect people in the state from heavy-handed actions by courts.

Another frequently cited example is a suit brought against an Oregon baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The businesses were sued, but those efforts came under state laws that extended protected-class status to gays. Arizona has no such law protecting people based on sexual orientation.


SENATORS URGE VETO OF BILL

On Monday, Arizona Senator John  McCain urged Governor Brewer to veto the bill. Arizona Democrats also repeated calls for her to do so.

"From a social standpoint, it's really just calling for state sanctioned discrimination, which is unacceptable and from an economic standpoint, who knows, but we are putting a big sign on the front door of Arizona telling a large group of people that we don't want them in this state, we don't want them to live here, we don't want them to spend their money, we don't like them -- basically, if this bill were to go into law, that's what we're saying as a state and that's unacceptable," said Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Chad Campbell.

A Republican State Senator running for governor is urging Brewer to sign SB 1062.  In a statement, Al Melvin says it is common sense and a good law.  If Brewer vetoes the religious freedom bill, Melvin says he wants someone elected who will sign the legislation next year.

When asked if the president has a take on the legislation that apparently has been passed, but not signed in Arizona that would allow businesses to deny service to gays based on the religious beliefs of business owners, White House Spokesman Jay Carney replied, "I haven't spoken with the president about that. I don't have an official position. It certainly doesn't sound particularly tolerant, but I don't have a position at this time on it."

Arizona will hold the Super Bowl next year in Glendale.  The host committee weighed in on SB 1062, saying it does not support the legislation.  The committe says it tolerates diversity and not discrimination.  It's focused on the positive worldwide attention the game will bring to our state, as well as the economic benefits.

In the meantime, Apple, which is building a manufacturing plant in Mesa, is also urging the governor to veto the legislation.


You can read the text of the law here:
SB1062 - Arizona Revised Statutes; relating to the free exercise of religion.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press modified.

Didn't find what
you were looking for?

Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices