A bill passed by the Arizona state legislature that would have made it legal for businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer on Wednesday night. Brewer had until Saturday to act on the legislation, but has been under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans such as Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, businesses like Apple and American Airlines, and the NFL, which was considering moving the 2015 Super Bowl from Phoenix to Tampa Bay.
“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 explained at a press conference, adding, “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value; so is non-discrimination.”
Brewer did throw a bone to the bill’s opponents. “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,” she 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.”
Outside the state capitol in Phoenix protesters cheered and swapped banners urging her to veto the bill for signs that said, “Thank you Governor Brewer. Arizona is open for business to everyone!” Hillary Clinton applauded her decision while speaking at the University of Miami, saying her veto recognizes that “inclusive leadership is really what the 21st century is all about.” McCain said in a statement, “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.”
If the bill had become a law, it probably would have been reconsidered in a referendum on the November ballot, causing a massive headache for Republicans nationwide. But despite the bipartisan push against SB 1062, the issue is far from dead. Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Missouri, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.