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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer heads home amid furor over bill



By BOB CHRISTIE

PHOENIX (AP) - Gov. Jan Brewer returned to Arizona on Tuesday and faced a pressing decision about a bill on her desk that has prompted a national debate over religious and gay rights.

The Republican governor has been in Washington the last five days for a governor's conference, and she is returning to a political climate that is much different from just a week ago.

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill last week allowing businesses whose owners cite sincerely held religious beliefs to deny service to gays. It allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

The legislation has caused a national uproar. The chorus of opposition has grown each day, with the business community, the state's Super Bowl Committee and both Republican U.S. senators calling for a veto. Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was the latest prominent voice to weigh in and urge Brewer to veto the bill.

Brewer will likely spend the next day or more pondering Senate Bill 1062 before deciding whether to sign or veto the legislation.

There is widespread speculation that Brewer will veto the bill, but she has not said how she'll act, as is her longtime practice with pending legislation.

Political observers in Arizona cautioned that the governor is deliberate and not prone to act hastily, despite the growing calls from business, politicians of all stripes, and civil rights groups for a veto.

"She's no rookie to these high-profile deals - she gives both sides their due," said Doug Cole, a political consultant whose firm has run all of Brewer's campaigns for decades.

"She's going to get a very detailed briefing from her legal team, and give the proponents their best shot, and the opponents their best shot," he said. "Everybody's going to get their say, and they've giving it."

Some Republican senators who pushed the bill through the Legislature are now calling for a veto as well, but they cite "inaccurate" information about the measure for igniting a firestorm. They argue the bill is designed only to protect business owners with strong religious beliefs from discrimination lawsuits that have happened in other states. Some blame the media for blowing the law out of proportion.

Democrats say that argument doesn't wash and call SB1062 "toxic" legislation that allows discrimination. They said they warned Republicans who voted for the bill that it was destined for trouble.

"We brought this to their attention five weeks ago," said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. "We said this is exactly what is going to happen. 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 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.

The center's president, Cathi Herrod, has been deriding what she called "fear-mongering" from the measure's opponents.

"What's happened is our opponents have employed a new political tactic, and it's working," she said. "Throw out the threat of a boycott to attempt to defeat a bill, and you might just be able to be successful.

Herrod added she was surprised and disappointed that "in America today, false attacks and irresponsible characterizations about a piece of legislation can so intimidate and persuade people to change their opinion about religious liberty."

Join the discussion

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volunteersandiego February 25 2014 at 7:31 PM

I can't wait to see the backlash if this bill stands. People who stand for equality and love will *also* have the right to deny service to bigots of all shapes and sizes. See, equality and fairness and love are a part of *my* religion and that of all but extremist right-wingers... So it works both ways. I would gladly boycott unscrupulous businesses that would hide behind this ridiculous law, and be happy to refuse to serve them or those who support them. Oops...there goes the arts, the sciences, education, fashion, restaurants and basically the service industries. Thankfully, most people in Arizona are better than this, and it will not stand. I hope the Governor signs it into law so that it will be overturned at a higher level and a nationwide equal rights bill will be established.

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ronp7214 February 25 2014 at 9:51 PM

How's did that boycott of Disney work out for the ultra conservative zealots? Really brought them to their knees. This isn't the middle east. Live and let live. Law or no law a business will sink or swim with their decisions. Let the public decide.

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jamesskeagler February 25 2014 at 9:50 PM

Herrod is an idiot. Good luck Jan. Your reputation is on the line and your character is too. I am not only opposed to this bill, I am opposed to this type of criminal, yes criminal, bigotry.

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Dallas February 25 2014 at 7:54 PM

The SCOTUS has expressly recognized - as both an individual and collective right - that a right to freedom of association and belief is implicit in the First - “…the right to peaceably assemble…” - Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and has been determined to be limited to the right to associate for First Amendment purposes.

Why should businesses and/or their owners be deprived of the same right?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jim.kennedy2 February 25 2014 at 9:48 PM

the "main stream" in america now SUPPORTS gay rights and is both secular (separation of church and state) and progressive! I AM SOOOOO GLAD I DON'T LIVE IN ARIZONA!!!

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crrunch February 25 2014 at 7:55 PM

This is pure unadulterated foolishness. Next it will be tattoos, head scarves, and who knows what else. Big, BIG can of worms and I'm straight, don't wear a scarf or have body art.

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Linda February 25 2014 at 9:48 PM

VETO THIS BILL.

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kwrohan February 25 2014 at 7:57 PM

First of all how are the shop keepers going to know if a customer is gay? Not all gay folk fit the stereotypes that would give you a visual clue. Second, how is this any different than not serving someone of another faith, another color etc.? If you have a business that's open to the public you basically agree to serve ALL of the public. You don't get to administer a questionnaire to find out if your customers are compatible with your religious beliefs.

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2 replies
hestexas kwrohan February 25 2014 at 8:04 PM

Which is the issue. Why must gays be so much about their sexuality in the first place? If I don't want to be a part of a gay marriage by delivering flowers or a wedding cake with gay's on it, why should I have to. Just get it from someone who does not care. The BIGOTS are the ones trying to force others to violate their conscious.

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number518 kwrohan February 25 2014 at 8:11 PM

You get a clue when a gay couple come in and want you, as a private photographer with sincere Christian beliefs, to photograph an in-your-face gay (counterfeit) marriage. You get a clue when that couple comes to you as a caterer with sincere Christian convictions and wants you to cater their affair. You get a clue as a baker with sincerely held Christian principles when the gay couple comes to you and wants a specialty themed cake for a gay wedding. Get the picture?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
gmfbear1 February 25 2014 at 9:47 PM

I was just at the AZ State Capitol protesting SB 1062. My question is: If you won't serve me in your restaurants, your doctors offices and your stores, would you take my heart, lung or liver if you or a loved one was on a waiting list for an organ? If you can truthfully say you would let your wife, mother or child die rather than accept a gay person's organ you are an out right LIAR!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
EzinWy February 25 2014 at 9:42 PM

This is a no-brainer ...
but it may be time to tag everyone - S, G, B, NS
Straight, Gay, Bi, Not Sure
Then businesses can also be established and they can post who they serve.
Everybody's happy !

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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