by Ben Johnson
PHOENIX, AZ, February 27, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Facing an intense national campaign of media and economic pressure, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have given Arizona business owners greater legal protections to exercise their faith in public.
Senate Bill 1062 would have made it more difficult to sue business owners who refuse to participate in commerce that violates their religious convictions, such as making a cake for a same-sex “wedding.”
“Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” Brewer said. “I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.” However, lawsuits have been filed against a Christian photographer in New Mexico, bakers in Colorado and Iowa, and an elderly florist in Washington state who refused to take part in same-sex ceremonies.
Brewer obliquely referred to the economic threats her state faced if she signed the bill. Corporate executives, their allied politicians in both parties, and the chamber of commerce threatened economic repercussions if the bill passed. The NFL also threatened to deny Arizona the chance to host Super Bowl XLIX next year.
“I know that the entire business community is galvanized, in a way that I’ve never seen, against this legislation,” Sen. John McCain, whose wife and daughter support redefining marriage, said before the veto.
“This legislation seeks to protect businesses, yet the business community overwhelmingly opposes the proposed law,” Brewer said in her veto message, adding that the bill “could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
Instead, she asked state legislators to turn away from First Amendment issues and “foster Arizona's business friendly environment.”
"I think she vetoed the bill because of pressure from the Arizona business community," political adviser Dick Morris told Newsmax, who said the Super Bowl threat was pivotal.
While celebrating the veto, homosexual activists underlined the role economic blackmail played in their success. “With today’s veto, Governor Brewer spared her state from institutional discrimination and economic catastrophe,” said Chad Griffin, president of the homosexual pressure lobby group Human Rights Campaign. “This country isn't turning backwards.”
Brewer's veto earned praise from such strange political bedfellows as Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Democratic Congressman and amnesty enthusiast Raul Grijalva, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Veto = victory in AZ tonight,” Pelosi tweeted.
The veto was purchased by mischaracterizing the contents and effect of the bill, a group of nearly a dozen scholars noted. Homosexual activists said the bill was a Jim Crow law that would give business owners a blanket right to deny all services to homosexuals – and possibly allowed sexual or racial discrimination, as well.
“We have left the confines of reality,” Republican Rep. J.D. Mesnard of Chandler told local media.
Unlike homosexual actions, race and sex are known to be physically immutable traits that are covered by federal civil rights laws. No state law could revive segregation, much less this one.
S.B. 1062 was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a bill that passed the U.S. Senate by a 97-3 vote and that earned the support of Ted Kennedy. Some 18 states have adopted similar legislation since 1997. Under S.B. 1062, homosexuals could still sue, but would have to meet more stringent criteria to prevail in court.
Now, it will be easier for activists to sue individuals who refuse to violate their religious consciences. “And keep in mind that these private plaintiffs may not be suing a business; they may be suing a church, a minister, a religious charity, an individual, or anyone else clearly protected by the Arizona RFRA,” the scholars said in their letter.
“The legislation reaffirms the basic principle that the fundamental rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion do not stop at the exit door of your local church, and instead extend to every area of life,” U.S. Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona said, noting that American servicemen had died for that liberty. “They gave all they had because they knew that religious freedom was the cornerstone of all other freedoms. The aim of the sponsors and proponents of SB 1062 was to defend against increasing and ubiquitous efforts by the secular Left to do away with religious freedom in America as they have successfully done in many other parts of the world.”
Franks said “rather than join an honest debate about the actual text,” liberal progressives “resorted to their primary strategy of flooding the zone with gross distortion, political intimidation, and economic extortion.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said apparently the bill's opponents are “graduates of the Pelosi School of Policy, where they dispose of bills before they find out what's in them.”
“This bill like the federal RFRA, bars government discrimination against religious exercise,” he said, “so by vetoing this bill Governor Brewer is saying she supports government discrimination against people's religious freedoms.”
Hearing of the veto, LGBT pressure groups were ebullient.
“This was a major defeat for what has become a concerted Hail Mary campaign to carve out special rights for religious conservatives,” said Evan Hurst, Truth Wins Out’s associate director.
GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis said this proved that Republican support for pro-family Americans is waning. "Governor Brewer today demonstrated that basic respect for LGBT people extends across party lines,” she said.
Yet Brewer's stance did nothing to abate the Left's persistent criticism of her record as governor. “Governor Jan Brewer stood on the right of history today by vetoing SB 1062,” the homosexual activist group GetEQUAL said. “However, we cannot forget the suffering that some of her other decisions have caused. ... She signed SB 1070 into the law – one of the most anti-immigrant laws in the country – then signed an executive order denying driver's licenses for DREAM Act-eligible youth who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA). She has defunded Planned Parenthood clinics and signed a bill prohibiting abortion after 18 weeks after conception. She has also backed a marriage equality ban in Arizona.”
Still, Lambda Legal hoped her veto would be “a guiding signal for elected leaders across the country considering similar bills.”
Constitutionalists who believe in the unalienable right to practice religion and self-determination hope this will not be the end of the line for bills that would respect those privileges.
“Everyone should be free to live and love as they choose, but no one should demand that government coerce others into celebrating their relationship,” said Ryan Anderson, a marriage expert at the Heritage Foundation.
"Unfortunately, at a moment of testing, Governor Jan Brewer yielded to the cultural bullies and their frenzy-driven opposition instead of consulting the facts," Perkins concluded.
State pro-family leaders called the veto “a sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.”
“Opponents were desperate to distort this bill rather than debate the merits,” Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy said. “Essentially, they succeeded in getting a veto of a bill that does not even exist.”
Hon. Janice K. Brewer, Governor
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007