Washington Bureau

02.26.14

Jan Brewer Keeps Arizona in the 21st Century

After pressure from Mitt Romney to the NFL, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays for religious reasons.

On Wednesday night, after nearly a week of suspense, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062. Widely seen as enshrining anti-gay discrimination, the legislation would have protected business owners from lawsuits if they refused to serve customers based on religious beliefs.

The bill had drawn a huge backlash across the country, with the NFL considering moving the Super Bowl from the Grand Canyon State in 2015 if the bill became law. (The league had previously moved Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 out of Arizona after the state refused to commemorate Martin Luther King Day.)  The past two Republican nominees for President, Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, had urged Brewer to veto the bill as had most of Arizona's business community. Others who had condemned the bill included three Republican state senators who had voted for it and then backtracked, all but one Republican candidate for governor in 2016 and Arizona's other senator, Republican Jeff Flake.  In contrast, those urging Brewer to sign the bill included Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann. 

In the speech announcing her veto, Brewer bragged about her record protecting religious freedom in Arizona and said Senate Bill 1062 "does not address specific or pressing concerns related to religious liberty in Arizona." She went on to say that she had "not heard one example" of an actual problem that the bill would fix. Brewer went on to worry that the bill was "broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consquences" as well as causing "more problems than it proports to solve." The governor though did see some merit to the legislation. In her veto letter, she wrote "The concerns from proponents of this bill are not unfounded. As a result of actions taken by the Obama Adminstration, as well as some federal and out-of-state courts, I am increasingly concerned about government's encroachment on our religious freedoms.

Some national conservatives reacted in sorrow to Brewer's annoucement. Rich Lowry of National Review tweeted "Brewer veto shows that poorly informed hysteria works." Former Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), the current head of the Heritage Foundation, tweeted that Brewer vetoed legislation "designed to protect religious liberty." 

In Arizona, Doug Napier, an attorney for a group supporting the bill, mourned "Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Today's veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona." His remarks were echoed by Cathi Herrod, a lobbyist who backed the bill, who said "it is truly a tragic day in our state and nation when lies and personal attacks can over shadow the truth."

In contrast, John McCain issued a statement saying,“I appreciate the decision made by Governor Brewer to veto this legislation. 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.” Hillary Clinton also praised Brewer Wednesday night, saying that the Republican governor "recogniz[ed] that inclusive leadership is really what the 21st century is all about."

Brewer's veto comes a week after the Kansas State Senate rejected a similar bill in the Sunflower State.