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Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill

Arizona’s Republican governor vetoed a highly controversial bill that would have legalized anti-gay and other discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.”

The Arizona Republic reports Brewer announced her decision to veto SB 1062, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” at a rare press conference in the capitol rotunda in Phoenix on Wednesday. The bill would have legalized religious-based discrimination by business owners against LGBT people or anyone proprietors claim threatened their religious freedom. Brewer said:

“As with every proposal that reaches my desk, I gave Senate Bill 1062 careful evaluation and deliberate consideration. I call them like I see them, despite the cheers or boos from the crowd. I took the time necessary to make the right decision. I met or spoke with my attorneys, lawmakers and citizens supporting and opposing this legislation. I listened, and asked questions. As governor, I have protected religious freedoms when there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state. And I have the record to prove it. My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona… 

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. After weighing all of the arguments, I vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago.

To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. 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, so is non-discrimination. 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.”

Opponents of the bill hailed the conservative governor’s decision. A celebration broke out outside the state capitol among protesters and concerned citizens as the veto was announced. Some held up placards thanking Brewer for her decision. One read “Arizona Is Open for Business to Everyone.”

“We want the nation and the world to know that (the bill), a mean-spirited effort to legally sanction discrimination, is not representative of our state,” Senate Democratic Leader Anna Tovar said in a statement. “It’s time to move Arizona forward and make sure something like SB1062 never happens again. It’s time to show the nation and the world what Arizona is really about.”

“Discrimination has no place in Arizona, or anywhere else,” Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said in a statement. “We’re grateful that the governor has stopped this disgraceful law from taking effect, and that Arizona will remain open for business to everyone.”

SB 1062 was pushed by a pair of Christian, anti-gay groups, Center for Arizona Policy and Alliance Defending Freedom. Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod expressed her disappointment in a statement.

“SB 1062 passed the legislature for one reason only: to guarantee that all Arizonans would be free to live and work according to their faith. Opponents were desperate to distort this bill rather than debate the merits. Essentially, they succeeded in getting a veto of a bill that does not even exist.”

But even supporters of the bill conceded that there were no recorded cases of anyone’s religious freedom being violated in the state.

Five Republican lawmakers who initially supported and voted in favor of SB 1062 reversed course and urged Brewer to veto it, citing serious harm to Arizona’s economy and reputation due to national, even global, backlash against the state. After the state approved SB 1070 in 2010, an anti-illegal immigration bill that critics say was racially motivated and encourages racial profiling, there were widespread boycotts of the Grand Canyon State.

“I screwed up,” erstwhile SB 1062 supporter Sen. Steve Pierce told Capitol Media Services last Sunday. “I’m trying to make it right.”

“It’s really not about the content of the bill right now; it’s about the perception,” said state Sen. Adam Driggs, who had voted for the bill.

Numerous major corporations and the National Football League (NFL), which said it would consider moving next year’s Super Bowl from Phoenix if the measure passed, voiced their opposition to SB 1062. Many prominent national Republican figures, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Arizona US Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, urged Brewer to veto the bill.

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