Arizona governor held meetings over rights bill

Comment: Off

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2014 file photo, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks during her State of the State address at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. The Republican governor faced intensifying pressure Tuesday from CEOs, politicians in Washington and state lawmakers in her own party to veto a bill that would allow business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2014 file photo, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks during her State of the State address at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. The Republican governor faced intensifying pressure Tuesday from CEOs, politicians in Washington and state lawmakers in her own party to veto a bill that would allow business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

FILE-Cathi Herrod, president of the Center For Arizona Policy, speaks during an Arizona state House of Representatives hearing at the Arizona Capitol, in Phoenix, in this June 10, 2013. Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer faced intensifying pressure Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, from CEOs, politicians in Washington and state lawmakers in her own party to veto a bill supported by Herrod’s group that would allow business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Anthony Musa, left, and Brianna Pantillione join nearly 250 gay rights supporters protesting SB1062 at the Arizona Capitol, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Phoenix. The protesters gathered demanding Gov. Jan Brewer veto legislation that would allow business owners to refuse to serve gays by citing their religious beliefs. The governor must sign or veto Senate Bill 1062 by the end of next week. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Nearly 250 gay rights supporters protest SB1062 at the Arizona Capitol, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Phoenix. The protesters gathered demanding Gov. Jan Brewer veto legislation that would allow business owners to refuse to serve gays by citing their religious beliefs. The governor must sign or veto Senate Bill 1062 by the end of next week. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer held a series of private meetings Wednesday with opponents and proponents of legislation adding protections for people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays, a proposal that has focused national attention on the state as business groups, gay rights supporters and even many fellow Republicans urged her to use her veto power.

Among those meeting with the governor was the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, who it was essentially his chance to give a closing argument. He defended the proposal and said his efforts were intended to extend the reach of the state’s religious freedom law to businesses and corporations and allow those sued for discrimination to cite the law even when the government isn’t a party. He said a veto would be disappointing.

“It’s quality legislation, and there’s no good reason at all as far of the merit of this bill to not sign it,” Yarbrough said. “This bill does simply, basically, three things … and that all it does. And it doesn’t have anything to do with creating opportunities for discrimination that in any fashion is greater than what exists in the law currently. “

The governor faces a Saturday deadline to either sign Senate Bill 1062 or use her veto stamp. In a tweet from her official twitter account late Tuesday, the governor said: “I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the State of Arizona.”

Brewer has been under increasing pressure to veto the proposal passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The proposal passed with support from all but three House Republicans and all 17 GOP state senators.

Three of those senators, however, reversed course Monday and called for the governor to veto the Senate Bill 1062 and were among opposition Republican lawmakers meeting with her Wednesday.

“Our position is clear – we think it is a mistake for Arizona to have this controversy, and we would like her to veto the bill,” said Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa. “It’s very frustrating to her to see what the state’s going through. It’s very painful. We’ve worked hard for five years to improve this state and get it past …being on the front page of the paper. And this is very frustrating. This wasn’t expected, and there’s just a lot of damage being done that’s unnecessary.”

Worsley said he believes Brewer will veto the bill, although she made no commitments.

Democrats said they warned Republicans who voted for the bill that it was destined for trouble.

“We said this is exactly what is going to happen,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “You have a bill here that’s so toxic it’s going to divide this Legislature. It’s going to be polarizing the entire state. And that’s exactly what happened.”

The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. Supporters call the bill a slight tweak to the state’s existing religious freedom law, which does not extend protections to people based on sexual orientation.

Lawyers from across the political spectrum say much of the opponents’ arguments that the bill opens the door to discrimination are overblown, but that has not eased the pressure on Brewer to act decisively.

The bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. The group says the proposal simply clarifies existing state law and is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts.

“What’s happened is our opponents have employed a new political tactic, and it’s working,” said Cathi Herrod, the group’s president. “Throw out the threat of a boycott to attempt to defeat a bill, and you might just be able to be successful.”

Similar religious-protection legislation has been

Comments

comments

About the Author