Arizona’s “anti-gay” bill is giving the state a bit of an image problem, with an increasing number of state lawmakers joining a chorus calling for the bill to be vetoed. Gov. Jan Brewer, who hasn't yet made public comments on it, has until Friday to sign the bill into law, which would allow businesses to discriminate against gay people due to “religious” freedom.
State Sen. Steve Pierce, who was one of the Republican votes in support of Senate Bill 1062, now thinks the controversial bill was a bad idea and told journalists he wants it vetoed, as Talking Points Memo points out. “I don’t like the negative picture of Arizona, and I’m on board asking the governor to veto the bill,” Pierce told the Prescott Daily Courier. “To say (the bill is) anti-gay is following the feeding frenzy... I have friends that are gay, and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt them. This is blown way out of proportion and it’s too bad.” Pierce also spoke to Capitol Media Services, telling them, “I screwed up. I’m trying to make it right... I would be on board to get it repealed."
Under the Arizona Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the state is currently not permitted to substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion. But under the new bill, SB 1062, the definition of a “person” will be expanded to include associations, businesses and churches, and will allow people and businesses to use their religion as a defense in civil court, according to the Daily Courier. In denouncing the bill, Pierce joined several fellow Republicans: Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who also represents Pierce's Prescott area, along with Arizona gubernatorial candidates State Treasurer Doug Ducey, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, and attorney Christine Jones. Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake tweeted on Saturday, “I hope Governor Brewer vetoes SB 1062.”
Update: 3:58 p.m. Three Republican Arizona state senators have sent a letter to Brewer urging her to veto the bill. Pierce was joined by Sen. Bob Worsley and Sen. Adam Driggs, who all voted for the bill, in calling for the veto. Worsley called his vote a mistake and said that he felt uncomfortable when he voted for the bill.
For supporters of the bill, which would essentially allow Arizonans to legally discriminate against gay people, it’s beginning to dawn on them that the legislation is doing the state’s image no favors. Brewer’s anti-immigration policies have already marred the state’s image, giving it a reputation for being unreasonably heavy-handed and discriminatory toward undocumented immigrants.
Brewer’s policies famously include banning benefits for anyone helped by President Barack Obama’s deferred action immigration policies, and SB 1070, the subject of a Supreme Court ruling, which suggested that police be allowed to ask for immigration papers from anyone they suspected of being an undocumented immigrant.
But even though S.B. 1062 isn’t yet law, visitors are already shunning Arizona as a vacation spot.
“We have already lost untold amounts of tax dollars due to the negative perception that this legislation attaches to our state’s image, and the bill hasn’t even been signed into law yet,” Kristin Jarnagin, vice president of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, told Capitol Media Services. Jarnagin said that the bill has also likely harmed job creation, as large hotel projects and international events that were in the process of selecting Arizona as their stage are now in jeopardy. “We literally begged lawmakers to consider the unintended consequences not only on our tourism industry but on our ability to attract new businesses and jobs to our state,” Jarnagin said.