Following a firestorm of opposition from LGBT advocates, Republican leaders and business leaders, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced on Wednesday she vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed individuals to refuse to serve prospective customers on religious grounds.
“After weighing all of the arguments, I have vetoed Senate bill 1062 moments ago,” Brewer told reporters.
Critics said the measure would have enabled businesses to individuals to refuse services to LGBT people out of religious concerns.
Brewer said she vetoed the legislation after taking “the necessary time to make the right decision,” touting her record protecting religious freedoms in the state.
“Senate bill 1062 does not address a specific or pressing concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” Brewer said. “I have not heard one example in Arizona where business owner religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
Noting that she had called for a responsible budget and a child protections when speaking before the legislature last month, Brewer chided lawmakers for making SB 2016 “the first policy bill to cross my desk.”
“To supporters of this legislation, I want you to know that I understand long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before,” Brewer said. “Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely belief that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.”
Following her announcement, Brewer posted a picture of her vetoing SB 1062 via her Twitter account.
— Jan Brewer (@GovBrewer) February 27, 2014
The announcement made Brewer strange bed fellows with LGBT advocates, who praised her for rejecting the legislation.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Brewer “spared her state” from a law that would have enabled discrimination.
“The bipartisan outpouring of opposition to this bill is all the proof you need that this country isn’t turning backwards,” Griffin said. “Gov. Brewer did the right thing in stopping this assault on businesses and the LGBT community and we call on her and the legislature — and governors and legislators in other states — to resist any attempt to give license to discrimination.”
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, commended Brewer for vetoing the legislation.
“We thank Gov. Brewer for her decision to veto this outrageous measure — a law that if enacted would be bad for Arizona people and the Arizona economy,” Carey said. “In doing so, she has stopped a bill that both cynically uses religion as a smokescreen to justify discrimination and insults people of faith who feel that discrimination is morally wrong. This decision sends a clear message that extremism is totally unacceptable to people of all political persuasions.”
Erin Ogletree, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Arizona, said the veto is a watershed moment that “signaling that Arizonans and all people of goodwill” don’t support discrimination.
“It is also a loud wake-up call to the Republican Party,” Ogletree said. “We do best when we champion the freedom and rights of all individuals. It is time to refocus on being the party of limited, competent, and accountable governing that welcomes everyone.”
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Apple and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee are among the myriad of organizations and businesses that called upon Brewer to veto Senate Bill 1072. U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also urged the Arizona governor not to sign the measure.
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, nonetheless expressed disappointment that Brewer vetoed the bill, saying she “yielded to the cultural bullies.”
“This measure should have been a political no-brainer and only went down because people either chose to ignore the plain language of the bill or refused to read it altogether,” Perkins said. “Apparently, they’re graduates of the Pelosi School of Policy, where they dispose of bills before they find out what’s in them.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday the legislation sounds “pretty intolerant,” but the White House never issued a full-throated opposition to the bill. No LGBT advocates called on Obama to speak out against the legislation as some said his opposition could have in fact influenced Brewer to sign the bill into law.
As the Washington Blade previously reported, the Arizona bill is part of a national trend of movement on state bills aimed at expanding the exercise to religion to allow discrimination against LGBT people. Other bills are pending in Mississippi and Kansas and others has been defeated in Maine and South Dakota.
Michael K. Lavers contributed to this report.