Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s Bill 1062–the so-called “discrimination bill”–Wednesday amid strong pressure from both sides of the controversy. Ms. Brewer had stated that she would read and be briefed on the bill upon her return to Arizona from Washington, where the politician was attending a National Governors Association meeting. She returned to emphatic support and protest of the bill.
Opponents of the Arizona bill viewed it as allowing religious business owners to refuse service to gay citizens in Arizona–and not only gays. Legal analysts criticized the language of the bill as being broad enough to facilitate legal discrimination against any group on the basis of religious belief. However, other observers viewed the bill as protecting religious business owners from being forced to perform services for gay marriages against their will, as happened in the recent law cases that led to the original drafting of the bill earlier this year.
Ms. Brewer announced her veto after meeting with opponents and supporters, saying, “I call them like I see them.” Brewer pointed to the overbreadth of the language, the lack of a specific, present religious concern which would be addressed by the bill, and the lack of actual examples of cases in Arizona where the bill would have been useful as the reasons for her decision.
Ms. Brewer also made comments in reference to the bill to the effect that it was not the type of matter she was interested in at the current time. Brewer said that her priorities are a budget, economic growth, and “fixing our broken child protection system.”
Arizona suffered economic damage as a result of the controversy surrounding the bill even during its short period of public attention. Gay activists, such as actor George Takei, threatened an economic boycott of Arizona. Large corporations, such as Apple, American Airlines, and the NFL, also urged Brewer to veto the bill, publicly and privately. The NFL had begun to consider Tampa Bay as an alternative to Arizona for next year’s Super Bowl. Wednesday, shortly before Brewer vetoed the bill, the Hispanic National Bar Association cancelled its plans to hold a 2000-person annual convention in Arizona–as a political statement against the bill. Anti-bill groups mounted phone and email campaigns at Brewer to veto the bill, threatening never to visit the state again.
Arizona also experienced a significant economic boycott in 2010 as a result of the enactment of a controversial immigration policing law. The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act created new, stricter laws police could use, purportedly, to fight the state’s illegal immigration problem. Under the bill, illegal immigrants could not hold jobs and police could arrest anyone if the officer had probable cause to believe a person had committed an offense that would lead to their removal from the United States. This bill was largely reversed by a Supreme Court decision based on the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Before the 2010 boycott, Arizona faced a boycott in the early 90’s when the state’s voters chose to retain the Columbus Day holiday rather than replace it with the new Martin Luther King holiday, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. The NFL moved the planned 1993 Superbowl from Arizona to Pasadena, Calif., backing up a threat by the NFL if Arizona would not support MLK day.
Political pressure was also on Ms. Brewer from local groups. A member of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, which is to present Ms. Brewer with an award Friday night, stated, “[T]his attention is just sending the wrong message.”
Despite the evidently stronger pressure mounted on the side of the bill’s opposition, Gov. Brewer’s record is not that of a politician who bows easily to pressure groups. Brewer has established herself as a politician who can sign or veto a bill regardless of what pressures she faces.
By Day Blakely Donaldson