February 23, 2014
Four years after igniting a national debate over immigration, the Arizona Legislature has jumped into the battle over gay rights with legislation that had opponents on Friday predicting boycotts against the state.
The legislation allows business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to refuse service to gays, and all eyes are on Gov. Jan Brewer (R) as she decides whether to sign the bill. A decision is likely in the next week.
The conservative governor is already feeling pressure from businesses to veto the bill, which passed late Thursday. A prominent Phoenix group says it would be another black eye for a state that saw a national backlash over its 2010 immigration crackdown law, SB1070. Opponents also pointed out that the legislation would serve as a major distraction as Arizona prepares to host the Super Bowl next year.
But Brewer will also face pressure to sign the bill from social conservatives who backed it as religious rights legislation.
Brewer, who is deeply religious but also pro-business, is caught in the middle. She has not taken a public position on the bill.
Social conservatives and libertarian-minded members of the GOP say the legislation protects the First Amendment rights of business owners who are expressing their religious beliefs.
The legislation was passed over the objections of Democrats who said it was clearly designed to allow discrimination against gays. All but three Republicans in the Legislature voted for the bill.
Barry Broome, the president and chief executive of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, urged the governor to veto the bill and said four companies have already put plans to open facilities in Arizona on hold until they see if the bill becomes law. The impact could mean the potential loss of “thousands of jobs,” Broome said.