A coalition of Arizona leaders is heading south to get a different perspective.
Gov. Brewer Announces Veto Of SB1062
SB1062 Veto Letter
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed SB1062, the bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. Brewer said the state had more important issues to work on.
Before her announcement Wednesday, Brewer spent most of the day meeting with lawyers, lawmakers and citizens who represented both sides of the issue. In the end, she decided Senate Bill 1062 would cause more problems that it would solve.
"Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to the religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where business owner's religious liberty has been violated," Brewer said. She said she had already signed numerous pieces of legislation that protect religious freedoms, but this was not the right way to do it.
Brewer said she made it her priority this legislative session to continue the state's economic comeback, and that was a big reason she vetoed this bill. Her speech only lasted a few minutes, and her tone was very serious.
The state’s business community had been urging Brewer to veto the bill for several days. Business leaders worried about the impact the law would have on businesses coming to Arizona — or not coming to Arizona.
Barry Broome, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said had the governor signed the bill into law, the damage to the state’s reputation would have been permanent.
"Its implications on human resource directors for these major companies like Intel and Apple would have been profound. The implications on their brands would have been profound," Broome said. "And I really do think there was a 50-50 chance we would have lost the Super Bowl."
The NFL had been watching the issue closely, and Major League Baseball had issued a statement in opposition of the bill.
Broome said law could have had a colossal impact on the state’s economy. He believes with the governor’s veto, though, the controversy around it will dissipate quickly.
Supporters said the bill was designed to shield businesses from lawsuits and protect religious freedom. State Rep. Steve Smith voted for the bill and he says he thinks it was a good piece of legislation.
“My gosh, that’s about as important as it gets. Constitutionally protected, First Amendment rights," Smith said. "If many feel those rights are under assault, or could be under assault, and you want to do something to protect them. And that is of utmost importance.”
Smith said the bill was tainted by a misinformation campaign. He said he doesn’t think this bill will be brought up in the future because legislators who originally voted for the bill asked Brewer to veto it.
Brewer scolded state lawmakers for sending her the bill in the first place, saying she was disappointed they haven't followed through on her goals to fix Arizona's troubled child welfare system and approve a well-rounded state budget. But she did urge lawmakers to look toward the future.
"Going forward, let's turn the ugliness over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed surge for greater respect and understanding among all Arizonans and Americans," Brewer said.
Glenn Hamer, President and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said it was important for the governor to deliberate and have all of the information before making her decision.
"This is probably the biggest story right now in the United States of America. It was very important for her to not only veto the bill, which she did, but to make sure that she discussed the reasons behind the veto," Hamer said.
Hamer said Arizona’s reputation will be fine. He calls Arizona a welcoming state, and says the governor’s veto reaffirms that.
By vetoing the bill, Brewer went against fellow Republicans who make up the majority of the state legislature. But she isn’t likely to face significant fallout among conservatives.
Though the bill was supported by almost all of the Republicans in the Arizona House and Senate, members of the GOP on the local and national level had called for a veto.
Brewer heard from state lawmakers in her own party that she’d have political cover if she chose to veto SB1062.
Political strategist Jaime Molera says it was also important that Brewer had support from Republican gubernatorial candidates.
“When you have Doug Ducey, when you have Scott Smith, Ken Bennett, Christine Jones, those that folks would consider probably the more prominent [Republican] candidates and they’re coming out and saying this is problematic, I think that just shows what the governor did was absolutely right," Molera said.
Speaker of the Arizona House Andy Tobin, a Republican who voted for SB1062, said in a statement that he respects the governor’s decision, "especially in light of the concerns brought up over the past week."
Outside the capitol, it was pretty much a party once the veto was announced. The lawn was filled with smiling people waving rainbow flags and holding signs thanking Brewer.
Ira Bohm-Sanchez stood on a bench and congratulated the protesters. "Make no mistake," he said. "This all happened because of us."
Lee Walters said he came for this celebration.
"Jan, you did the right thing. This is what was needed for Arizona. It’s what’s right for the people. You stepped up. You are brave. You did the right thing," Walters said.
Walters was just hoping for this outcome. He expected it. So did David Becerra, who came with his two young sons.
"My older son is learning about the civil rights, and so when he heard about what was going on and the bill, he’s the one that said we should go protest and do something like they did in the civil rights movement, because we shouldn’t discriminate against anybody," Becerra said.
Protestors like the Becerra family were joined by a handful of Democratic lawmakers, including State Rep. Martin Quezada. He said Brewer did the right thing.
"This was a bill that was based in pure bigotry and hatred, and the fact that it advanced so far in this process is really a sad, and the damage by this bill has already been done to our state," Quezada said.
Quezada said he saw the veto coming, but was surprised it took so long.
Updated 2/26/2014 at 9:09 p.m.
KJZZ's Peter O'Dowd, Alexandra Olgin, Nick Blumberg, Stina Sieg, Steve Shadley and Mark Brodie contributed to this story.