The state’s business community, along with GOP leaders, told Gov. Jan Brewer the legislation would usher in an economic disaster
LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
PHOENIX —Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the religious-bias bill Wednesday, after nearly all political pundits predicted she would. The bill would have allowed people to discriminate based on self-claimed religious beliefs, and even former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined the chorus of prominent Republicans who said she should.
Brewer vetoed a similar bill last year, but that was part of an overall threat to veto every bill until the Legislature passed a budget.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said Brewer’s veto “spared her state from institutional discrimination and economic catastrophe.”
The state is already paying a price for its Legislature’s willingness to back the religious-bias bill. The Hispanic National Bar Association’s board voted unanimously
Wednesday to pull its 2015 convention from the state — a conference of more than 2,000 lawyers.
The National Football League had warned it might pull the 2015 Superbowl, scheduled to be played in Arizona.
At a press conference late Wednesday, Brewer said she spoke with lawmakers and citizens on both sides of the issue, but she said little to suggest she disagreed with the legislation — only that the issue had not been a priority for her.
“When I addressed the Legislature earlier this year, I made my priorities for this session abundantly clear … among them are passing a responsible budget that continues Arizona’s economic comeback.” She said she also wanted legislation to fix Arizona’s “broken child protection system.”
“Instead, this is the first policy bill to cross my desk,” Brewer said. “Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
She reassured supporters of the bill that she understands that “long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before.”
“Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes,” Brewer 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 no one would ever want. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, and so is nondiscrimination.
“Going forward, let’s turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among all Arizonans and Americans.”
In a letter to the president of the Arizona Senate, Brewer said the concerns that motivated the sponsors of the religious bias bill were “not unfounded.” Without explaining, she cited “actions taken by the Obama Administration” and “some federal and out-of-state courts” for making her “increasingly concerned about government’s encroachment upon religious freedoms.”
She also noted that some legislators who supported the bill’s passage “now do not want this legislation to become law.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 28, 2014.