The Arizona anti-gay bill is dead after Republican Governor Jan Brewer, saying that she feared the law “could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine,” used the power of her veto stamp to snuff it out once and for all on Wednesday.
The bill was characterized as anti-gay because, if enacted, it would allow business owners to refuse service to same sex couples or for that matter, individual gay people, under the guise of “religious freedom.” Actually, the bill would have allowed businesses to refuse service to anyone at all, if the business owners said that their religious beliefs caused them to disapprove of that person, for some reason.
The anti-gay bill, SB1062 which passed Arizona’s Republican-dominated state legislature last week, was opposed not only by gay rights groups, but by business organizations, Arizona’s own Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, major corporations such as Apple Computer and American Airlines, and two major sports leagues, the National Football League and Major League Baseball, both of which have teams based in Arizona.
“Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” Brewer said, explaining why she shot down the anti-gay bill. “I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.”
Describing the legislation as “too broad,” Brewer cited concerns of legal scholars who said the bill would allow discrimination against just about anyone, as long as the business person cited a religious reason for the discrimination.
But Cathy Herrod of the right-wing Center For Arizona Policy, a major force behind the anti-gay bill, said that the intention of the legislation was not to discriminate against individuals or groups, but to guarantee that business owners were free to live by their religious principals.
The bill would “guarantee that all Arizonans would be free to live and work according to their faith,” she said. “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.”
Even Republicans in Arizona were desperate for Brewer to veto the anti-gay bill, saying that it turned the state into a national laughingstock.
“This was unquestionably bad for the state of Arizona,” said Republican public relations expert Jason Rose, of the now-dead anti-gay bill. “There’s nothing good when the proponents were running from defending their position, when you’re the butt of late night jokes.”