February 28, 2014
I guess we all knew it was going to go this way.
Ending a day that cast a glaring national spotlight on Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gay men, lesbians and other people on religious grounds.
Her action came amid mounting pressure from Arizona business leaders, who said the bill would be a financial disaster for the state and would harm its reputation. Prominent members of the Republican establishment, including Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, also sided with the bill’s opponents, who argued that the measure would have allowed people to use religion as a fig leaf for prejudice.
Ms. Brewer announced her veto at a hastily called news conference after spending the day holed up in the Capitol in private meetings with opponents and supporters. “I call them like I see them, despite the cheers or the boos from the crowd,” she said. She added that the legislation “does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” and that it was “broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
The governor further castigated the Republican-controlled Legislature, which passed the bill last Thursday, for making it the first piece of legislation to reach her desk this year. Her priorities, she said, are a budget, continuing the state’s economic growth, and “fixing our broken child protection system.”
The bill was inspired by episodes in other states in which florists, photographers and bakers were sued for refusing to cater to same-sex couples. But it would have allowed much broader religious exemptions by business owners.
A range of critics — who included business leaders and figures in both national political parties — said it was broadly discriminatory and would have permitted all sorts of denials of service, allowing, say, a Muslim taxi driver to refuse to pick up a woman traveling solo.
Supporters said the bill was needed to allow people to live and work by their religious beliefs. “This bill is not about allowing discrimination,” State Senator Steve Yarbrough said during debate on the measure last week. “This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”
Calls, emails and posts to Ms. Brewer’s Facebook page streamed in by the thousands, many from people urging her to sign the legislation. “Don’t let them bully you, Jan,” one of them read. “If we deny someone their religious beliefs or the right to do business with whom they choose, we truly are giving up more and more, all of us, gay or straight.”
There is nowhere to run from these monsters.