White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was cautious in his response Tuesday when asked about a controversial “license to discriminate” bill in Arizona, saying the legislation sounds “pretty intolerant” without directly expressing opposition to the measure.
Under questioning from NBC News’ Peter Alexander, Carney said the administration doesn’t generally weigh in on state legislation, but the president’s support for LGBT rights is well known.
“Well, my suggestion yesterday that it sounded like a pretty intolerant proposed law, I think, reflects our views,” Carney said. “As a practice, we don’t generally weigh in on every piece of legislation under consideration in the states, but I think the president’s position on equality for LGBT Americans and opportunity for all is very well known. And he believes that all of us, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity should be treated fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. That view would govern our disposition toward a state law under consideration.”
Now that both chambers of the Arizona Legislature have approved the bill, it comes before Gov. Jan Brewer, who has to decide whether to sign or veto the bill. If enacted, it would expand the state’s definition of exercise of religion to allow businesses and individuals to discriminate based on religious reasons. Critics say the measure is aimed at allowing discrimination against LGBT people.
Brewer was among the attendees in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association. Asked whether President Obama spoke with Brewer about the legislation, Carney said he’s “not aware” of any such talks.
Although the White House has yet to articulate direct opposition to the bill, others who have weighed in opposing it include Apple, Inc. and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, the Arizona-based American Airlines has called on Brewer to veto the bill as well as both U.S. senators from the state: Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Major LGBT rights groups have refrained from calling on Obama to speak out on the bill. The generally unstated view among LGBT advocates is that vocal opposition to the bill from Obama may actually act as an incentive for Brewer to sign it. The two have a history of hostility, which includes an exchange in which Brewer publicly pointed her finger in his face at an Arizona airport.
As the Blade reported on Monday, Eunice Rho, an advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union said lawmakers behind legislation like the one in Arizona “don’t care much for what the president says or thinks” on policy matters.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign is pointing to a “chorus of voices” in a statement that have already denounced Arizona’s controversial proposal as the organization maintains it and similar bills in other states are bad both for civil rights and businesses.
“These bills are bad for business, bad for the LGBT community and bad for all Americans,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “These bills have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with shameful discrimination. Make no mistake about it; states that do enact these bills into law will face less investment, fewer jobs and a reputation for standing on the wrong side of history.”