Late Wednesday afternoon, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial Arizona bill that would have allowed small business owners to refuse service to certain customers under a claim of religious freedom.
Brewer said, “Senate bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I’ve not heard of one example in Arizona where business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.”
She said the bill was too broadly worded and could result in “unintended and negative consequences.”
Brewer said the bill had “the potential to cause more problems than it purports to solve.” She called religious liberty “a core American and Arizona value. So is nondiscrimination.”
She asked that those on all sides “turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among all Arizonans and American.”
The vetoed bill was similar to existing Arizona law, except that it made explicit that small business owners could make such claims. It is thought small business owners are already covered under existing federal and even Arizona law, but similarly covered small business owners in other states have been prosecuted for refusing to provide services to same-sex weddings. The owners of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado faced jail time for declining such a request, as did a photographer in New Mexico.
Brewer was under tremendous pressure from moderate GOP leaders, including her own home-state Senator John McCain and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. A coalition of 80 large corporations threatened that such a bill would harm business interests in Arizona. And statements from the NFL stoked speculation that the sports giant would pull out of Arizona for the scheduled 2015 Super Bowl, something that would have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
The veto capped weeks of intense debate during which opponents to the bill made increasingly wild claims, including that under the bill gays could be denied medical service or even simple cups of coffee or slices of pizza. Proponents insisted that claimants under the bill would have had a high bar to prove their claim and that the courts could still assert a substantial interest in striking the claim down.
Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation and one of the leaders in the national marriage fight told Breitbart News, “The Arizona religious liberty bill was a good piece of public policy. But because of constant misrepresentation in the media, a bill that never mentioned gays, lesbians, marriage, or same-sex anything was labeled anti-gay Jim Crow legislation. In truth, the bill merely protected religious liberty and took nothing away from anyone.
“Everyone should be free to live and love as they choose, but no one should demand that government coerce others into celebrating their relationship. All Americans should remain free to believe and act in the public square based on their beliefs about marriage without fear of government penalty.”
Alliance Defending Freedom’s Senior Counsel Doug Napier, a leader in drafting the Arizona bill, said, “Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Today’s veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona. Even though the battle has become more difficult, Alliance Defending Freedom stands ready to defend any Arizonan who suffers the indignity of religious discrimination.”
Professor Gerald Bradley of the University of Notre Dame School of Law told Breitbart News Brewer’s veto was “predictable, but unfortunate. This really was a media and partisan witch hunt. Brewer caved to nothing less than high-tech blackmail: ‘if you sign this bill, we will make you (AZ) pay!’ The letter to her by eleven constitutional law scholars of differing views about same-sex marriage was very telling. It made the perfectly sound case for signing the law; more exactly, it refuted the hysteria against signing it. In a sane world, nothing more would need to be said against this act of political cowardice.”
Matthew Franck, executive director of the Princeton University-based Witherspoon Institute told Breitbart News, “This was a missed opportunity for more secure protection of religious freedom, a defeat brought about by a drumbeat of intolerant hysteria, misinformation, and political cowardice. Ironically, since the bill the governor vetoed only clarified some ambiguities in existing Arizona law, her unfortunate decision may not change much about how future cases are litigated in her state. But it does invite further attacks by the hard left on Christians and others who want to be faithful to their religions’ teachings on the sanctity of marriage.”
Daniel Horowitz of the Madison Project said, “Governor Brewer owes it to the residents of her state to come forward with an alternative plan to defend religious liberty. Moreover, in light of the ubiquitous assault on religious liberty around the country, conservatives must push the House to pass legislation protecting states and individuals from the anti-liberty fiats of unelected judges.”
Similar bills are under consideration in a handful of states.