Catherine Briggs

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Pressure mounts on Arizona governor to veto bill protecting businesses that refuse services

Catherine Briggs

PHOENIX, AZ, February 26, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The backlash created by the recent passage of Arizona’s SB 1092, a bill to protect the religious freedom of business owners, continues to escalate as politicians, both Democrat and Republican, and various Arizonan businesses and public officials urge Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill.

Last week, SB 1062 was passed by Arizona’s legislature.  The bill protects business owners from lawsuits filed as a result of refusing their services to potential customers on the basis of religious belief.  This legislation has been blasted by both Republicans and Democrats as being discriminatory and biased, as it would allow business owners to deny working with and for same-sex “weddings.”

Arizona’s Republican federal senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have declared their opposition to the bill.  “I know that the entire business community is galvanized, in a way that I’ve never seen, against this legislation,” said McCain.  In an interview with CNN, the senator stated that “[t]his is going to hurt the state of Arizona’s economy and, frankly, our image, so I hope the governor of Arizona will veto this and we move on."

Three of Arizona’s state senators have retracted their support the bill, calling for its veto mere days after they voted in favor of its passage.  Senator Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who was one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Associated Press, "I think laws are (already) on the books that we need, and have now seen the ramifications of my vote. I feel very bad, and it was a mistake.”

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, weighed in on the topic via Twitter, adding his voice to the chorus of disapproval of the bill.

Many Washington Republicans see the bill as a distraction from and a hindrance to other important issues, especially with the midterm elections coming up this November.  “There are lots of economic and fiscal issues that people care pretty deeply about. I think those are good issues for us to focus on,” Sen. John Thune, R-SD, said. “We’ll stay focused on Obamacare. Those are the issues we want to talk about.”

On the other hand, outspoken radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed on his show that Gov. Brewer is being “bullied” into vetoing the bill by its opponents.

“She’s being bullied by the homosexual lobby in Arizona and elsewhere,” he said. “She’s being bullied by the nationwide drive-by media, she’s being bullied by certain elements of corporate America in order to advance the gay agenda. I guess in that circumstance bullying is admirable. In fact, this kind of bullying is honorable.”

Several businesses, including Apple Inc. and American Airlines, have urged the governor to veto the bill, their reason being that it would hurt the state’s economy that has been slowly recovering from the housing crash. 

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In addition, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, has requested the governor veto the bill.  In a statement released on February 24, the Chamber of Commerce states, “As leaders in the business community, we cannot support measures that could expose our businesses to litigation, nor do we want to send a message that our state is anything but an open and attractive place for visitors and the top talent that will be the cornerstone of our continued economic growth.”

Arizona’s tourism groups have also expressed their caution concerning the bill, afraid that such a piece of legislation would cause a drastic plunge in the state’s tourism and attractions industry.

"We're greatly concerned," said Kristen Jarnagin, senior vice president of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. "We've already received countless phone calls and emails from people canceling trips or threatening not to return."

There is conjecture that Arizona could lose its current status as host of Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, which is scheduled to be held at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ.  In a statement issued February 24, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee stated that “adoption of this legislation would … deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential.” 

National Football League spokesman Brian McCarthy said that the league is “following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law.” The league’s policies, he said, “emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”

Throwing his two cents into the quagmire of opinions, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, stated that the NFL should consider moving the Super Bowl to a different location if SB 1092 is passed.

“If they pass this law and if she signs it,” Markell said, “it would seem to me that the NFL may be looking, or should be looking, to move the Super Bowl out of that state.  Because, you know, there’s so many places around the country that are welcoming to everybody.”

There are those who believe that neither side of the debate holds the correct solution to protecting religious freedom and avoiding discrimination.  In an article on HotAir.com, Ed Morrissey states that “Arizona’s legislature tried amending the state’s protection of religious belief, but the effort may end up backfiring.”

“In essence,” Morrissey continues, “what we have is a legislative sledgehammer coming in response to the abuse of another legislative sledgehammer, thanks to the redefinition of ‘tolerance’ to ‘forced acceptance and participation.’”

While opponents claim the bill would allow businesses such as coffee shops to refuse service to homosexuals, the bill’s defenders insist that is not the case, and note that businesses are not clamoring to turn away paying customers.

“[There’s] a basic difference between denying someone a cup of coffee or a piece of pizza or selling someone a pencil versus forcing someone to use their creative ability to create a message to support an event, to support an idea that goes against their beliefs,” Kelly Fiedorek, attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNN.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, responded to the fiery reaction to the passing of SB 1062 in a statement on Saturday.

“Instead of having an honest discussion about the true meaning of religious liberty, opponents of the bill have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks, and irresponsible reporting,” charged Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy.

Governor Brewer must make a decision on the bill by the end of this week.

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