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Brewer vetoes SB 1062: 'Could divide Arizona in ways we cannot imagine'

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial anti-gay SB 1062 on Wednesday, saying it would "create more problems than it purports to solve."

"Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination," she 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," Brewer said. "The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences"

Brewer answered no questions from reporters in announcing her veto, and quickly left a press conference held at 5:45 p.m. at the Capitol.

The bill would have given any individual or business an exemption from any state law that substantially burdens their exercise of religion, including laws forbidding discrimination in public accommodations.

Business leaders, advocates and Arizona’s two Republican U.S. senators urged Brewer to veto the measure, which opponents said would empower businesses to discriminate against gays and others and would trump ordinances in cities such as Phoenix and Tucson against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"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," Brewer said.

"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," she said. "It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want."

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A large crowd outside the State Capitol erupted in cheers as she made the announcement, which was carried live on television.

“I am very happy that she vetoed the bill, but the nightmare isn’t over,” said Jo Beaudry, who was with her partner, Christina Hatler. “She needs to make sure all the decisions she makes serve all the people of Arizona in the next few months.”

A crowd of about 100 people welcomed the veto news at a protest rally at the Arizona State Building in downtown Tucson.

"This is a huge victory for the LGBT community. They developed a protest, got people on the street, and made their voices heard," said Kelly Van Voorst, one of the organizers of the protest.

"People like me, who can't hide their proclivities, have no protection. This is a huge victory for us but we still have to fight against workplace discrimination," said a man who insisted on being identified only as "Princess."

In Tucson, a city law has barred discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1999. Phoenix and Flagstaff passed such ordinances last year. SB 1062 would've preempted those city laws, if discrimination were committed with a religious justification.

In the rest of the state, it remains legal to discriminate against LGBT people, although a recent decision in a jury selection case by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared LGBT individuals to be a protected class.

Business pressures

In her first veto of the year, with the NFL reconsidering holding the Super Bowl in the state, and a national group of Hispanic lawyers canceling their 2015 convention in Arizona over the bill, Brewer sided with business interests who were pushed by civil rights groups to oppose SB 1062.

Although right-wing supporters of the measure continued to press the Republican governor, concerns about business won out.

"The out-of-state examples cited by proponents of the bill, while concerning, are issues not currently existing in Arizona," Brewer wrote in her veto letter to state Senate President Andy Biggs.

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"The legislation seeks to protect businesses, yet the business community overwhelmingly opposes the proposed law. Moreover, some legislators that voted for the bill have reconsidered their votes and now do not want this legislation to become law," she wrote to Biggs.

The bill passed the Legislature last week; Brewer spent several days in Washington, D.C., at a conference of the National Governors Association before returning to Arizona on Tuesday. In the days between passage and the veto, a national furor built over the proposed law.

Although the measure passed the Legislature on a party-line basis, with every Republican in the Senate and all but three in the House voting in favor, a some GOP leaders backtracked on their votes.

Arizona's two U.S. senators, Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, had called on Brewer to veto the bill, as did Steve Pierce, a former state Senate president who voted for the bill but then said the governor should veto the bill. Pierce said he "made a mistake" voting for the measure, which he said could lead to discrimination.

Wednesday, McCain welcomed the veto.

"I appreciate the decision made by Gov. Brewer to veto this legislation. I hope that we can now move on from this controversy and assure the American people that everyone is welcome to live, work and enjoy our beautiful State of Arizona," he said in a news release.

Arizona Democrats also voiced their approval.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, applauded Brewer’s decision but decried the “handful of extremists” who pushed it through the Legislature and the Center for Arizona Policy, the conservative advocacy group that called for a law.

“It is time to put a stop to the control that these unelected extremists have in the Legislature,” Campbell said. “We will not be held hostage by their right-wing, extremist agenda.”

"I applaud Gov. Brewer for doing the right thing. By vetoing this bill, the governor has sent a message to the country that Arizona is a place of tolerance and acceptance," Campbell said. "It is unfortunate that SB 1062 made it as far as it did in the process, but that is the fault of a handful of extremists at the Capitol who are out of step with the rest of the state. These ideologues need to be held accountable for pushing such hateful legislation, as should the Center for Arizona Policy and Cathi Herrod."

"As the proud daughter of a lesbian, I am extremely grateful that Gov. Brewer chose to protect my family, the LGBT community, the economic growth of our state and for ensuring harmony for the state of Arizona,” said Shasta McManus, executive director of the Pima County Democratic Party. "Whether her decision was based on moral grounds, speaking out against discrimination in her state, or the deep pocket influence of the business community, that was screaming too loudly to ignore, we at the Pima County Democratic Party applaud this veto."

"I hope her veto will shield Arizona from further damage, but we aren’t out of the woods yet," said U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.

"The lawmakers who rammed this bill through our Legislature owe Arizona an apology and an explanation of why and how they rushed it without input from citizens, the business community and tourism bureaus," said the CD1 Democrat. "We need answers so we can ensure this never happens again. Arizona deserves better."

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, who voted for the measure, released a statement saying that he respects the governor’s decision, “especially in light of the concerns brought up over the past week.”

“I understand the concerns of people of good faith on all sides of this issue,” said Tobin, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Kirkpatrick.

NM gay-wedding case cited by supporters

Supporters said the bill was needed to address a gap in Arizona’s 1999 law on religious freedom, citing a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that said a photographer couldn’t to turn down a lesbian couple based on the photographer’s religious beliefs.

Herrod, whose Center for Arizona Policy pushed for the bill, said the veto "marks a sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty."

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"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," Herrod said in a press release.

"SB 1062 made certain that governmental laws cannot force people to violate their faith unless it has a compelling governmental interest-a balancing of interests that has been in federal law since 1993. The religious beliefs of all Arizonans must be respected and this bill did nothing more than affirm that," Herrod said.

As Brewer held meetings to inform her decision, the Hispanic National Bar Association canceled plans to hold its 2015 annual convention in Phoenix. The association’s 2013 convention in Denver nearly 2,000 people.

“As a national association of lawyers committed to promoting the ideals of equal protection, equal opportunity, tolerance, and inclusiveness, it is imperative that we speak up and take immediate action in the presence of injustice,” the association said in a statement.

Also Wednesday, Sports Illustrated reported that the National Football League has begun investigating the possibility of moving the 2015 Super Bowl from Glendale if SB 1062 became law.

The Human Rights Campaign, a group advocating for the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, arrived in the Executive Tower on Wednesday carrying boxes that leaders said contained 63,000 signatures opposing SB 1062.

Sheila Kloefkorn, a member of the group’s board, said she sees as a business owner how the bill would harm the economy.

“I want to make sure I can attract top talent,” she said. “The more that we show we are diverse and inclusive, the greater state and the more economic vitality we’re going to have.”

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce of Industry among among business groups that called for a veto, saying the measure could hurt the state’s economic recovery.

Businesses continued sending messages urging a veto Wednesday, including a fax from Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden citing concern about the company’s 228 Arizona-based employees.

“This divisive law implies that all are not welcome, that diversity is not tolerate, and that a healthy business climate is an acceptable sacrifice to special interests,” Tilden said in the letter.

Brent DeRaad, head of Visit Tucson, welcomed the veto announcement, saying he is "relieved."

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"The bill was incredibly flawed. While many agree with protecting religious freedom, we saw, based on the massive outcry against this bill by Arizonans, that very few support using a religious freedom argument to potentially promote discrimination against the LGBT community and possibly others not protected by federal law," DeRaad said.

"Because the bill was passed by the Legislature prior to being vetoed, we have heard from potential visitors with trepidation about what they will experience in Arizona," DeRaad said in a press release. "Based on what I've witnessed, Tucson gladly welcomes LGBT customers and I can assure you that we at Visit Tucson will do all we can to continue earning LGBT business, along with visits and meetings from all potential customers."

Cronkite News Service reporters Brittany Elena Morris and Catherine Calderon contributed to this story from Phoenix.


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Latest comments on this storyRead all 4 »

4
542 comments
Feb 27, 2014, 10:51 am
-0 +2

Bret, Tucson’s had a law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1999. Phoenix and Flagstaff passed such ordinances last year — you’d know that if you read the report.

3
1768 comments
Feb 27, 2014, 10:41 am
-0 +0

@Dylan Smith

So, you’ve been granted telepathic powers? Or you just prefer to judge based on potential arguments for or against the bill rather than just reading the bill itself and making up your own mind?

Isn’t this the text-book definition of “strawman argument”?

While it is probably true that many of the backers of the bill were themselves “anti-gay”, and the crafters of the bill may very well may have been motivated by being anti-gay, that doesn’t make the bill itself anti-gay. Whether or not the bill itself is anti-gay can only be accurately determined by tuning out all the rhetoric and reading the bill itself, and then judging the anti-gayness of the bill based solely on the words contained therein. If you do all of that…it is just not there. Its just not. Maybe this fact doesn’t make for as interesting of a story…

We can already kick gays out of our business if we so choose here in Arizona…would the energies put into this hysteria have been better spent to change that rather than protesting SB1062?

2
542 comments
Feb 27, 2014, 10:31 am
-0 +1

Bret, the bill was justified in the minds of its backers because of anti-discrimination cases in other states involving providing services for gay weddings. Before the uproar, they plainly said that it was written to allow businesses to refuse service to gays if they cited religion. Some legislators who voted for it said during floor debates that business owners should be free to discriminate against not just LGBT people, but any minority they don’t like. After voting for the bill, Steve Pierce said he changed his mind, acknowledging that it would lead to discrimination.

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Twitter.com/GovBrewer

Brewer's office released a photograph of her signing the veto letter.

Brewer's veto letter

The text of Brewer's veto letter:

The Honorable Andy Biggs
President of the Senate
Arizona State Senate
1700 West Washington
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Re: Senate Bill 1062 (exercise of religion; state action)

Dear President Biggs:

The free exercise of religion is a founding principle of the United States ofAmerica. It is a key ideal that distinguishes our country as a land ofliberty. This concept is so vital to freedom that Arizona's founders expressed the following in the preamble to the Arizona Constitution: "We the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution."

Senate Bill 1062 would statutorily extend to all businesses the right to assert a free exercise of religion defense in a judicial proceeding. The bill also would allow the assertion of the defense regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.

The concerns raised by the proponents of this bill are not unfounded . As a result of actions taken by the Obama Administration, as well as some federal and out-of-state courts, I am increasingly concerned about government's encroachment upon our religious freedoms.

As Governor, I have worked to ensure that the State of Arizona maintain religious freedoms when there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state. I have signed into law numerous pieces of legislation designed to protect the religious freedoms of individuals and businesses, including legislation that protects the rights of religious affiliated businesses to choose not to provide contraceptive coverage or abortion-inducing drugs in their insurance plans. I have safeguarded against the use of zoning that might otherwise infringe on religious liberties and protected licensed professionals from having their licenses threatened because of the exercise of their religious beliefs. I also have made certain that insurers on the federal insurance exchange in our state could not require plans that include coverage for elective abortions.

Senate Bill 1062, however, does not seek to address a specific and present concern related to Arizona businesses. The out-of-state examples cited by proponents of the bill, while concerning, are issues not currently existing in Arizona . Furthermore, the bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. The legislation seeks to protect businesses, yet the business community overwhelmingly opposes the proposed law. Moreover, some legislators that voted for the bill have reconsidered their votes and now do not want this legislation to become law.

These concerns are among the primary reasons I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062.

As we approach the month of March, I urge the Legislature to focus on the priorities I presented in my State of the State address. It is essential that we come together for a principled, fiscally prudent budget to continue Arizona's economic recovery and foster Arizona' s business friendly environment. It also is imperative that we remain steadfast in our shared pursuit to effectively reform Arizona's child safety agency, including its culture and mission.

Sincerely,

Janice K. Brewer
Governor

cc: The Honorable Andy Tobin
The Honorable Steve Yarborough

Brewer's remarks

Gov. Brewer's announcement of her veto of SB 1062, as released by her office:

Good evening, and thank you for joining me here today.

I am here to announce my decision on Senate Bill 1062.

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.

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.

From CEOs — to entrepreneurs — to business surveys — Arizona ranks as one the best states to grow or start a business.

Additionally, our IMMEDIATE challenge is fixing a broken Child Protection system.

Instead, this is the first policy bill to cross my desk.

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.

Thank you.