With all but three Republicans in the Arizona legislature voting for a bill characterized as anti-gay, and with every Democrat in opposition, the early betting was that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer would sign SB 1062. A Tea Party favorite, she had signed tough anti-immigrant legislation and once famously wagged her finger in President Obama’s face during an airport tarmac encounter. The image went viral.
Brewer is not someone to be trifled with. But when it comes to anti-gay legislation, which is tantamount these days to anti-business legislation, her allies on the right went too far with SB 1062. The bill expands Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act for individuals to include associations, businesses and churches in refusing to serve people whose life choices they find morally objectionable.
The bill passed Thursday, and by 8 a.m. Friday morning, Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council had e-mailed and hand-delivered a letter to Brewer warning her of costly litigation if the bill becomes law, including the loss of jobs and a potential threat to next year’s Super Bowl, set for Feb. 1 in Arizona. “It’s a little bit like our Olympics,” Broome says. “We want people to come and see how beautiful the state is. We didn’t want it to become an easy target for protests.”
Broome recalled how painful it was to see the state characterized as anti-immigrant after Brewer signed a new immigration law in 2010. “We didn’t want a repeat performance of that,” he says, which is why he got out fast with the business community’s position. “This is a diverse and vibrant community. We’re the fifth largest LGBT community in the U.S., and there’s just no place for discriminatory attitudes,” he tells The Daily Beast. “The bill creates a lot of problems for us, plus it’s morally wrong.”
Brewer forged a close alliance with the state’s business community during her fight last year to get the Republican-dominated legislature to approve Medicaid expansion. It was an unorthodox position for a Republican governor, and with the help of business and hospital interests, Brewer prevailed. She argued it was a matter of math, not ideology, and by accepting Medicaid funds, more Arizonans could get health coverage. As the head of the most powerful business group in the state, Broome’s support is designed “to help the governor find a path to veto this bill” by providing political cover.
Broome’s comments were quickly followed by a tweet Friday from Arizona Senator Jeff Flake urging Brewer to veto SB 1062. Senator John McCain chimed in Monday with an identical tweet. The major contenders in Arizona’s upcoming gubernatorial election said they opposed the bill, and by noon Monday in Arizona, three of the lawmakers who supported the legislation said they regretted their votes.
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