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Arizona governor's veto aimed at own party's right

By Bob Christie

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:31 a.m. HST, Feb 27, 2014

PHOENIX >> Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer slapped down the right wing of her own party, vetoing a bill pushed by social conservatives that would have allowed people with sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse to serve gays.

The conservative governor said she could not sign a bill that was not only unneeded but would damage the state's improving business environment and divide its citizens.

Senate Bill 1062 had set off a national debate over gay rights, religion and discrimination and subjected Arizona to blistering criticism from major corporations and political leaders from both parties.

Loud cheers erupted outside the Capitol building immediately after Brewer made her announcement Wednesday night.

Brewer pushed back hard against the GOP conservatives who forced the bill forward by citing examples of religious rights infringements in other states.

"I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated," Brewer said. "The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences."

And she chastised the GOP-controlled state Legislature for sending her a divisive bill instead of working on a state budget that continues her economic expansion policies or an overhaul of Arizona's broken child welfare system, her top priorities.

In a reference to the gay marriage debate that has expanded across the nation, she reached out to the religious right with sympathy but said 1062 was not the solution.

"Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes," she said. "However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and nobody could ever want."

The bill was designed to give added protection from lawsuits to people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays or others who offend their beliefs. But opponents called it an open attack on gays that invited discrimination.

Arizona was thrust into the national spotlight last week after both chambers of the state legislature approved it. As the days passed, more and more groups, politicians and average citizens weighed in against Senate Bill 1062. Many took to social media to criticize the bill.

Prominent business groups said it would be another black eye for the state that saw a national backlash over its 2010 immigration-crackdown law, SB1070, and warned that businesses looking to expand into the state may not do so if bill became law.

Companies such as Apple Inc. and American Airlines and politicians including GOP Sen. John McCain and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were among those who urged Brewer to veto the legislation. The Hispanic National Bar Association cancelled its 2015 convention in Phoenix.

In addition, three Republicans who had voted for the bill reversed course and two said it was a mistake. They said in a letter to Brewer that 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."

Enough lawmakers have said they're against the bill to ensure there will be no override of the governor's veto.

SB 1062 allows people to claim their religious beliefs as a defense against claims of discrimination. Backers cite a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to document their wedding, even though the law that allowed that suit doesn't exist in Arizona.

Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican who is running for governor and voted for the bill, said he was disappointed by the veto.

"I am sorry to hear that Governor Brewer has vetoed this bill. I'm sure it was a difficult choice for her, but it is a sad day when protecting liberty is considered controversial," Melvin said.

Democrats said it was a veiled attempt to legally discriminate against gay people.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said he would remain vigilant of other legislation that could also target gays.

"The effect is that again we got a black eye," Gallego said. "But it also shows that Arizona can stand united"

The Center for Arizona Policy helped write the bill and argued it was needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts and simply clarifies existing state law. It accused opponents of mischaracterizing the bill and threatening boycotts of Arizona.

"It is truly a disappointing day in our state and nation when lies and personal attacks can overshadow the truth," said Cathi Herrod, the leader of the group.

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 been passed by a state legislature. The efforts are stalled in Idaho and Kansas, and was withdrawn in Ohio Wednesday among concerns it would have unintended consequences.

The push in Arizona comes as an increasing number of conservative states grapple with ways to counter the growing legality of gay marriage. Arizona has a ban on gay marriage.

Federal judges have recently struck down those bans in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but those decisions are under appeal.

On Wednesday, a federal judge declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, but left it in place until an appeals court can rule on the case.


Associated Press reporter Astrid Galvan in Phoenix, Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and Jesse Holland in Washington contributed.

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kolohepalu wrote:
Congratulations Arizona for not enacting Jim-Crow laws against gay people. The fact that it came so close to passing is a scary testament to the demographics of the red states- large cities with diversity and an educated populace surrounded by a red sea of people who want it to be 1950.
on February 27,2014 | 06:35AM
ryan02 wrote:
Well, they gotta hate SOMEbody. It's not acceptable to hate blacks anymore, so . . . . they'll try to keep the hate against gays alive and well. Eventually they'll have to find someone else to hate, but for now gays are their target.
on February 27,2014 | 06:52AM
localguy wrote:
As Rodney King said, "Why can't we all get along?" Arizona's law would have been a license to hate. As there are no Federal religious standards, anyone could have made up their religion, saying they can hate anyone their religion does not approve of. Women, children, men, handicapped, Jews, Arabs, Asians, Blacks, White, Gay, Lesbian, Blonds, Red Heads (No, not going there, heheh) anyone. And under the guise of "Religious Freedom" all perfectly legal. Some really backwards, dysfunctional people behind this shibai law. Governor did right in smacking them all down.
on February 27,2014 | 07:09AM
I agree, you cannot ensure the liberties of one group by taking away the liberties of another based on belief and culture. Unfortunately, it will be some time before we as a nation will be able to reach a point of consenual liberties for all to agree on. It will happen, but the tug-of-war on this subject has a long track ahead of it.
on February 27,2014 | 09:59AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Well at least Arizona still has Sheriff Arapaho.
on February 27,2014 | 07:40AM
hawaiiwalter wrote:
Let's not be too harsh on Arizona. After all, we have our own share of bigots. State rep Richard Fale actually thinks he can beat Senator Clayton Hee with his claim that there has been "outrage" within his community concerning marriage equality. You have to feel sorry for Fale who doesn't realize that the marriage issue is dead...especially here in Hawaii. And the fact that Hee has more than $440,600 in cash on hand in his re-election campaing fund and Fale has about $28,800 says this guy is a loser. I feel sorry for the poor Mormon. Didn't he learn any lessons from Muffi the Mormon?
on February 27,2014 | 09:57AM
Walter-we are ALL bigots to a certain degree. We all have our own beliefs and morals. We all have an idea of what is right/wrong, black/white, gay/straight....But the definition of a Bigot is a person who does not hold same idea as another. So in essence you could be a bigot agains homosexuality as well as heterosexualality. So as ugly as that word is and what its usuall connotations mean--we are all bigots beleiving in our own ideas. Just saying.
on February 27,2014 | 04:04PM
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