Arizona Gov. Brewer vetoes 'License to Discriminate' bill

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. - PHOTO: Courtesy

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Feb. 26 vetoed a "License to Discriminate" bill that Republican legislators delivered to her desk hoping to allow people and businesses to refuse service to gays.

Brewer, in her statement announcing the veto of SB 1062, said she gave her decision "great concern and careful evaluation and deliberate consideration. I call them like I see them despite the cheers or the boos from the crowd. I took the necessary time to make the right decision."

Brewer had received opinions from across the country as she weighed her decision on the bill, one of several offered in state legislatures this year as the far-right of the GOP attempts to hold back the tide of marriage victories that followed last summer's U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The measure would have allowed people to cite religious beliefs in refusing service to someone else.

On Feb. 26, the day Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a federal judge in Texas overturned that state's anti-gay marriage laws.

Brewer heard from sports leagues, tourism leaders, corporation officers and elected officials — including some of the most prominent members of her party and from her state — that she should veto the bill. 

She also held a series of private meetings. "As governor I have asked questions, and I have listened. I have protected religious freedoms where there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state, and I have the record to prove it," she said. "My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona. When I addressed the Legislature earlier this year, I made my priorities for this session abundantly clear. Among them are passing a responsible budget that continues Arizona's economic comeback. From CEOs, to entrepreneurs, to business surveys, Arizona ranks as one of the best states to grow or start a business."

Brewer said the state's immediate challenge is fixing a "broken child protection system" so why was SB 1062 the first policy bill to reach her desk?

"Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona," the governor said. I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all of the arguments, I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago."

She added, "To the supporters of this legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes, 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.

"Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is non-discrimination. Going forward, let's turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among all Arizona and Americans."

And then there was praise for a governor with dismal record on rights, especially on immigration issues.

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of the activist group GetEQUAL, said, "Gov. Jan Brewer stood on the right of history today by vetoing SB 1062. It is clear that this bill would have hurt business, caused unnecessary controversy, and — most importantly —increased the suffering of LGBTQ people in Arizona. We are relieved that she has shown leadership and vetoed a bill that is bad for business and bad for the people of Arizona.

"However, we cannot forget the suffering that some of her other decisions have caused to immigrants, LGBTQ people and women. She signed SB 1070 into the law — one of the most anti-immigrant laws in the country — then signed an executive order denying driver's licenses for DREAM Act-eligible youth who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. She has de-funded Planned Parenthood clinics and signed a bill prohibiting abortion after 18 weeks after conception. She has also backed a marriage equality ban in Arizona."

At the Human Rights Campaign, president Chad Griffin said, “With today’s veto, Gov. Brewer spared her state from institutional discrimination and economic catastrophe. Make no mistake, there is no better way to doom jobs in a state than by signing license-to-discriminate bills. The bipartisan outpouring of opposition to this bill is all the proof you need that this country isn't turning backwards. Gov. Brewer did the right thing in stopping this assault on businesses and the LGBT community and we call on her and the legislature — and governors and legislators in other states--to resist any attempt to give license to discrimination.”

Log Cabin Republicans of Arizona President Erin Ogletree said. "This is a watershed event, signaling that Arizonans and all people of goodwill refuse to support legislated discrimination, especially discrimination cloaked in religion. It is also a loud wake-up call to the Republican Party. We do best when we champion the freedom and rights of all individuals. It is time to refocus on being the party of limited, competent, and accountable governing that welcomes everyone."

Gregory T. Angelo, LCR's executive director, added, "Today, those who would discriminate against gay Americans learned a hard lesson: they are on the losing side of history, and boy did they lose big."

Before Brewer announced her decision, major leagues weighed in on the issue. Organizers of an upcoming Super Bowl called for a veto and Major League Baseball restated its zero-tolerance for discrimination — Arizona and Florida are currently welcoming back baseball players for the start of the spring training season.

MLB said, "As the sport of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball and its 30 Clubs stand united behind the principles of respect, inclusion and acceptance.  Those values are fundamental to our game’s diverse players, employees and fans. We welcome individuals of different sexual orientations, races, religions, genders and national origins.

"MLB has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation, as reflected by our collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association. Accordingly, MLB will neither support nor tolerate any words, attitudes or actions that imperil the inclusive communities that we have strived to foster within our game."