clear
Friday May 22nd, 2015 10:40AM

Arizona gov. vetoes service-denial bill

By The Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) -- Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer slapped down the right wing of her own party, vetoing a bill pushed by social conservatives that would have allowed people with sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse to serve gays.

The conservative governor said she could not sign a bill that was not only unneeded but would damage the state's improving business environment and divide its citizens.

Senate Bill 1062 had set off a national debate over gay rights, religion and discrimination and subjected Arizona to blistering criticism from major corporations and political leaders from both parties.

Loud cheers erupted outside the Capitol building immediately after Brewer made her announcement Wednesday night.

Brewer pushed back hard against the GOP conservatives who forced the bill forward by citing examples of religious rights infringements in other states.

"I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated," Brewer said. "The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences."

And she chastised the GOP-controlled state Legislature for sending her a divisive bill instead of working on a state budget that continues her economic expansion policies or an overhaul of Arizona's broken child welfare system, her top priorities.

In a reference to the gay marriage debate that has expanded across the nation, she reached out to the religious right with sympathy but said 1062 was not the solution.

"Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes," she said. "However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and nobody could ever want."

The bill was designed to give added protection from lawsuits to people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays or others who offend their beliefs. But opponents called it an open attack on gays that invited discrimination.

Arizona was thrust into the national spotlight last week after both chambers of the state legislature approved it. As the days passed, more and more groups, politicians and average citizens weighed in against Senate Bill 1062. Many took to social media to criticize the bill.

Prominent business groups said it would be another black eye for the state that saw a national backlash over its 2010 immigration-crackdown law, SB1070, and warned that businesses looking to expand into the state may not do so if bill became law.

Companies such as Apple Inc. and American Airlines and politicians including GOP Sen. John McCain and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were among those who urged Brewer to veto the legislation. The Hispanic National Bar Association cancelled its 2015 convention in Phoenix.

In addition, three Republicans who had voted for the bill reversed course and two said it was a mistake. They said in a letter to Brewer that while the intent of their vote "was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance."

Enough lawmakers have said they're against the bill to ensure there will be no override of the governor's veto.

SB 1062 allows people to claim their religious beliefs as a defense against claims of discrimination. Backers cite a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to document their wedding, even though the law that allowed that suit doesn't exist in Arizona.

Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican who is running for governor and voted for the bill, said he was disappointed by the veto.

"I am sorry to hear that Governor Brewer has vetoed this bill. I'm sure it was a difficult choice for her, but it is a sad day when protecting liberty is considered controversial," Melvin said.

Democrats said it was a veiled attempt to legally discriminate against gay people.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said he would remain vigilant of other legislation that could also target gays.

"The effect is that again we got a black eye," Gallego said. "But it also shows that Arizona can stand united"

The Center for Arizona Policy helped write the bill and argued it was needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts and simply clarifies existing state law. It accused opponents of mischaracterizing the bill and threatening boycotts of Arizona.

"It is truly a disappointing day in our state and nation when lies and personal attacks can overshadow the truth," said Cathi Herrod, the leader of the group.

Similar religious-protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona's plan is the only one that has been passed by a state legislature. The efforts are stalled in Idaho and Kansas, and was withdrawn in Ohio Wednesday among concerns it would have unintended consequences.

The push in Arizona comes as an increasing number of conservative states grapple with ways to counter the growing legality of gay marriage. Arizona has a ban on gay marriage.

Federal judges have recently struck down those bans in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but those decisions are under appeal.

On Wednesday, a federal judge declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, but he left it in place until an appeals court can rule on the case.

---
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 4 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 4 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 4 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 4 months ago )
Politics
Alabama to join 'SEC primary' in 2016 presidential race
Alabama lawmakers have voted to join the ``SEC primary'' as southern states band together to try to get more attention from 2016 presidential hopefuls.
8:01AM ( 2 hours ago )
Boy Scouts' leader says ban on gay adults not sustainable
NEW YORK (AP) — The president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, said Thursday that the organization's longstanding ban on participation by openly gay adults is no longer sustainable and call...
11:23PM ( 11 hours ago )
Former Hall employee arrested on meth-related charges
Hall County authorities have arrested a now former Hall County Parks Maintenance Supervisor on drug charges.
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:46PM ( 13 hours ago )
VIDEO: Law enforcement gears up for holiday weekend, boating season
Rangers from a host of law enforcement agencies are gearing up for the busy Memorial Day weekend out on the various waterways in Georgia; the holiday marks the unofficial beginning to the summer boating season.
6:01PM ( 16 hours ago )
Two Jefferson homes destroyed by fires
Two house fires, among other things, kept Jackson County Fire crews busy Thursday.
5:17PM ( 17 hours ago )