Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed the religious bias bill.
Nearly all political pundits were predicting she would veto the bill allowing people to discriminate based on self-claimed religious beliefs. On Wednesday, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined the chorus of prominent Republicans who said she should.
Brewer vetoed a similar bill last year but that was part of an overall threat to veto every bill until the legislature passed a budget.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said Brewer’s veto “spared her state from institutional discrimination and economic catastrophe.”
The state is already paying a price for its legislature’s willingness to back the religious bias bill. The Hispanic National Bar Association’s board voted unanimously Wednesday to pull its 2015 convention from the state – a conference of more than 2,000 lawyers. The National Football League had warned it might pull the 2015 Superbowl.
At a press conference late Wednesday, Brewer said she spoke with lawmakers and citizens on both sides of the issue but she said little to suggest that she disagreed with the legislation – only that the issue had not been a priority for her.
“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.” She said she also wanted legislation to fix Arizona’s “broken child protection system.”
“Instead, this is the first policy bill to cross my desk,” said Brewer. “Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of 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.”
She reassured supporters of the bill that she understands 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,” said Brewer. “It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination.
“Going forward,” said Brewer, “let’s turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among ALL Arizonans and Americans.”
In a letter to the president of the Arizona Senate, Brewer said the concerns that motivated the sponsors of the religious bias bill were “not unfounded.” Without explaining, she cited “actions taken by the Obama Administration” and “some federal and out-of-state courts” for making her “increasingly concerned about government’s encroachment upon religious freedoms.” She also noted that some legislators that supported the bill’s passage “now do not want this legislation to become law.”