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home : latest news : state May 25, 2016

2/26/2014 6:19:00 PM
Governor vetoes anti-gay/religious freedom bill
'Could result in unintended and negative consequences'
Gov. Jan Brewer details Wednesday why she vetoed legislation that proponents said would prevent religious discrimination. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Gov. Jan Brewer details Wednesday why she vetoed legislation that proponents said would prevent religious discrimination. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, sponsor of SB 1062, talks with reporters Wednesday after he met with Gov. Jan Brewer to try to convince her to sign the legislation.  (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Sen. Steve Yarbrough, sponsor of SB 1062, talks with reporters Wednesday after he met with Gov. Jan Brewer to try to convince her to sign the legislation. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Speaker of the House Andy Tobin: "I respect the Governor's position to veto SB1062, 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."

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ): "I join Arizonans across our great state in thanking Governor Brewer for vetoing SB1062. Arizona dearly needed this responsible leadership after suffering so much at the hands of our Legislature. I hope her veto will shield Arizona from further damage, but we aren't out of the woods yet. 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. We need answers so we can ensure this never happens again. Arizona deserves better."

Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer: "The governor said she would do the right thing for Arizona, and today she lived up to her word. Arizona's business community thanks Gov. Brewer for vetoing S.B. 1062. Arizona is an open, welcoming place, which Gov. Brewer reaffirmed today. We look forward to joining the governor and Legislature in getting back to the important business of the state."

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) tweeted: "Let's move forward now and show the country what we've always known - there's no better place to be than in Arizona."

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Rejecting last minute pleas from supporters, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed late Wednesday controversial legislation billed as protecting religious freedom.

In her first veto of the session, Brewer said she understands the concerns of businesses who fear they would be forced to violate their religious beliefs. And she said those concerns are "not unfounded,' taking a slap at the Obama administration and courts which she have increased "government's encroachment upon our religious freedoms.'

But Brewer called the measure that reached her desk on Monday flawed.

"The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended consequences,' she said. And Brewer said while proponents of SB 1062 said they were seeking to protect businesses, "the business community overwhelmingly opposes the proposed law.'

The content of the legislation, however, was only part of the reason for the veto.

Brewer said she made her priorities for the session "abundantly clear,' including enacting a "responsible budget' for the state and fixing "a broken child protection system.'

Instead, Brewer said, she got this as the first policy measure of the session. And the governor suggested it appears to be a solution in search of a problem.

"SB 1062 does not address or specific or present concern related to religious liberties in Arizona,' she said in prepared comments. "I have not heard one example in Arizona where business owners' religious liberty has been violated.'

The governor also noted that several of the Republican legislators who voted for the measure are now having second thoughts and have asked her to veto the measure.

The most recent was Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, whose request came just hours before the veto.

"I believe this legislation, though drafted with sincere intentions, mistakenly sends a message to our citizens, our businesses, and the nation that Arizona is not 'Open for Business,' ' he said in a prepared statement. And Dial noted the claims by some foes that the legislation could hurt minority groups.

"Unfortunately our great nation has a painful history of discrimination,' he wrote. "I now recognize that this legislation, albeit unintentionally, has the potential to re-open those wounds.'

Three Republican senators who voted for it had previously asked for a veto.

The governor sidestepped the whole question of whether SB 1062, in expanding the ability of business owners to use their religion as a shield against serving others, would have resulted in what Sheila Kloefkorn of the Human Rights Coalition called a "license to discriminate,' especially against gays. Nor did she addressed counterclaims by supporters said this has nothing to do with sexual orientation, particularly as Arizona law already permits discrimination against gays.

In fact, she never mentioned the issue of sexual orientation, at least not directly.

"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,' the governor continued. "However, I sincerely believe SB 1062 has the potential to create more problems than in purports to solve.'

Existing Arizona law allows a business to ignore government rules and laws against discrimination if they can show it would interfere with their ability to practice a "sincerely held' religious belief. SB 1062 would have expanded that to provide a defense in civil lawsuits in which the government is not involved.

The governor said she fears the change "could divide Arizona in ways you can not even imagine, and no one would ever want.'

Brewer's veto drew swift reaction from Cathi Herrod, president of the religiously oriented Center for Arizona Policy which had helped craft the measure and push it through.

While not criticizing the governor directly, Herrod essentially said that Brewer had caved to pressure from opponents who wanted to "distort this bill rather than debate its merits,' saying it had nothing to do with discrimination against gays and everything to do with religious liberty.

"Essentially, they succeeded in getting a veto of a bill that does not even exist,' Herrod said in her statement. "The religious beliefs of all Arizonans must be respected and this bill did nothing more than affirm that.'

Brewer's veto came after extensive lobbying, not just by civil rights groups but also from virtually every business organization in the state as well as several current and future major employers. She also heard from the tourism industry fearful of the state losing conventions and visitors, much as what happened after the governor signed SB 1070 in 2010 which was aimed at illegal immigration but perceived by some as an attack on Hispanics.

The veto came even after Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, the sponsor of the legislation, made a face-to-face plea with Brewer to sign the measure -- and ignore the claims of those who said it would encourage or condone discrimination.

"I believe the business community has been misinformed, as well as a lot of other folks, about what the bill actually did,' he said.

The senator also said the concerns of the gay community about being victims of discrimination are misplaced. But Yarbrough said he would not support extending existing state civil rights laws that now cover things like race, religion and gender to also included sexual orientation.

"I don't envision doing that,' he said.

Why not?

"Because I don't agree.'

Those business concerns already were playing out even before Brewer quashed the measure.

On Wednesday, the Hispanic National Bar Association announced it was killing its scheduled 40th annual convention scheduled for the city for September 2015.

"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, said Miguel Pozo, the organization's national president in a prepared statement. He said his board, which made the decision unanimously, classifies SB 1062 among "laws that return us to a darker time in the nation's history.'

But late Wednesday, after the veto, Gonzalo de la Melena Jr., president of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he would encourage the bar association to reconsider.

Less clear is what will happen with four firms that Barry Broome, president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said told him within hours of SB 1062 passing that they were no longer considering the Phoenix area for new locations "specifically because of this bill.' Broome could not be reached late Wednesday.

Businesses were not alone in encouraging a veto. Every major GOP gubernatorial contender also urged the governor to kill it, with the exception of state Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson. He said supporters need to try again in 2015, presumably when Brewer is no longer governor.

Brewer's decision also is a defeat for the Alliance Defending Freedom which bills itself as a Christian public interest law firm that pushed for the change.

"We're seeing growing hostility in America against people of faith,' said Doug Napier, a senior vice president with the organization. He said while courts have been good about protecting freedom of religion in a synagogue or church, that hasn't extended to daily life.

"People don't just live out their faith on Sundays or Saturdays,' he said. "They have to be protected throughout the week as well.'

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Article comment by: Two good examples?

Mr. Wild cites abolition of slavery and the right to vote for women and minorities as conservative-opposed "Rights of the minority." That begs the question: What's Mr. Wild's definition of 'conservative'?

Opposition to slavery was not a liberal/conservative issue. Abraham Lincoln, who was a Whig for most of his political life, was anti-slavery, and Lincoln was certainly not a Liberal as defined in his day. Liberals, in fact, protested Lincoln's enactment of conscription--temporary enslavement of poor males that sent many to their graves.

Without the activism of religious groups that would today be deemed socially conservative, effective opposition to slavery would have been a long time coming.

As for women's right to vote, organized opposition came from groups of wealthy, city-dwelling women, not men. The states where men had relatively little objection to women's suffrage were frontier states such as Arizona, where rowdy males were blissfully unaware that women's suffrage and alcohol prohibition were closely linked.

Posted: Sunday, March 2, 2014
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Anyone means everyone thus your not profiling.Next it will be Christians stay off the
But it is written, so we can remember what
matters most.Any Guesses?

Posted: Sunday, March 2, 2014
Article comment by: Barnaby Wild

The Founders believed in natural rights theory, which holds that rights come from nature and cannot justly be taken away without consent. Therefore, the majority has no legitimate power to vote away or otherwise abridge the natural rights of political, ethnic, religious, or other minorities.

The Founders had great respect for the will of the majority, but also understood that, as James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, “the great danger in republics is that the majority will not respect the rights of minority.”

President Thomas Jefferson proclaimed in his first inaugural address, “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.”

Though social conservatives have always struggled with this concept, our Constitutional amendments and Supreme court rulings are often based on the "logic" of protecting the Rights of the minority.

Two good examples (both of which were opposed by conservatives): abolition of slavery and the Right to vote for women and minorities.

Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014
Article comment by: Kayo Parsons-Korn

To "Reserve the Right" and "To Bad", by the way that's Too Bad, what you are suggesting, that if you own a private business, you have the right to refuse service to anyone. So we should role back civil rights? You don't like African-Americans, you don't have to serve them? You don't like Jews, you don't have to serve them? This is the United States. We have a Constitution that gives rights to all citizens. And we also guarantee freedom of religion, with the caveat that the only way to protect that religious freedom is to promote no religion over another. Separation of church and state, ring a bell? Really you all should go back and take high school civics again.

Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014
Article comment by: Editor: I still prefer

word that best described Brewer's comments.

It is taken from a verse of Kristofferson's "Silver tongued Devil," song. ("As I was searching from bottle to bottle for something unstupid to say...").

I would be very reluctant to call anything Brewer says as "smart."

IMO, that would make me look stupid.


Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014
Article comment by: Gotta give it to ole Finger waggin' Jan

That was the 1st time in a long time she found something smart to say.

Here's a happy finger wag in your face, Jan!


Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Article comment by: To Bad

Sad what the Marxist left made the bill out to be. It never was an anti gay bill. To me it was a bill that said if you own a private business not a government run business you have the right to run it as you see fit. This PC BS is what will destroy a once great country
what will the next target be? Retirement Communities? After all don't they discriminate against the young?

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Article comment by: David Kessler

It's interesting that some see the veto of SB 1062 to be bending to the will of big business. It looked to me like she was bowing to the will of the people in Arizona. We are just not as intolerant as our republican legislature would like to make the rest of us appear. I think that most in our state would rather celebrate our diversity than to give the church going folks another reason to judge others. Thank you Governor Brewer for doing the right thing.

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Article comment by: She had to veto it...

so we could find out what's in it.

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Article comment by: steve hunter

Clearly she bends which way the wind is blowing. She was all for it before, but when big money started complaining, naturally she went the other way. Way to go Jan, way to stand your

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Article comment by: Reserve the right...

to refuse service to anyone.

Keep religion out of it.

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Article comment by: miss informed

Thanks Gov Brewer, you did the right thing, even if it was out of concern for the economy. If I did not live in AZ, I would take steps to avoid visiting this state, or any other, with discriminatory laws. Where does this discrimination end? Under house bill 1062, it would be permissible for supposed Christians to deny service to Jews, Muslims, Hindus Sikhs, Buddhists, homosexuals, unwed mothers or any other group that supposed Christians do not agree with. Under the Constitution, we are guaranteed freedom of and FROM religion. Honestly folks, let's think about what Jesus would do in this situation. His message was clearly that we should love one another.

Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Article comment by: Fan Tastic

I have never been a fan of Jan Brewer...until now. I am proud of her for stepping up to the plate - finally - and doing what's right. This bill would have been catastrophic in so many ways had it been passed. This is 2014. Let's keep evolving.

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