Amid the multiple protestations concerning the controversial and now-vetoed SB 1062 were a collection of East Valley leaders and organizations concerned with how the bill would, and still might, hurt the state’s reputation.
The bill would have allowed businesses to deny service if it violated a business owner’s “sincerely held religious belief,” and supporters said it would have protected business owners’ religious rights. Protestors who fought against the bill, however, said it would allow businesses to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, and while the language of the bill did not reference sexual orientation, legislators cited a case in New Mexico involving a gay couple suing a baker as motivation for it.
Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill and said while she understood the concerns business owners have about violating their religious rights, the legislation was “broadly worded” and ultimately flawed.
“SB 1062 does not address or specific or present concern related to religious liberties in Arizona,” she said during a speech on Feb. 26. “I have not heard one example in Arizona where business owners’ religious liberty has been violated.”
The legislation passed through the house and senate with support from several East Valley legislators – Sen. Steve Yarbrough, a Republican from Chandler, sponsored SB 1062 and continued to support it even after Brewer’s veto. But some legislators who initially voted for it stepped away from the legislation, including Republican Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa and Rep. Jeff Dial of Chandler, prior to the governor’s decision.
Their decision came after a slew of protests from residents, business owners, businesses and political leaders from across Arizona, including the East Valley. Among the political figures to speak out against SB 1062 were Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Gilbert Mayor John Lewis. Also siding against SB 1062 were the four most prominent candidates in the Republican gubernatorial race: Christine Jones, Ken Bennett, Doug Ducey, and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.
“I applaud Governor Jan Brewer for her veto of SB 1062. Her explanation was thoughtful and well-reasoned. I will continue to focus on issues that have real consequences for Arizonans,” Smith said in a press statement.
Additional pressure to veto the bill came from groups with both national prominence and a direct connection to Arizona like the NFL and businesses with East Valley connections such as Intel and Apple.
Even a number of local businesses disagreed with the legislation, among them Desert Car Care President Frank Leutz. Leutz, whose business has locations in Gilbert and Chandler, said in an email exchange the bill promoted intolerance, and he was concerned SB 1062 could have a deleterious affect on the state.
“This bill would have a devastating effect on tourism and a decline of winter visitors and tourism for our state is a real threat to our seasonal business,” he said.
The outspoken protests by businesses on a local, state, national and international level was a motivator for several business councils to side against SB 1062 as well. Barry Broome of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council was an early opponent of the legislation, and the East Valley Partnership’s executive committee recommended Brewer veto the bill. President and CEO Roc Arnett concurred with the idea that passing the bill could have dinged the state’s reputation for businesses.
“Whether it is right or wrong, in the court of public opinion it is wrong,” he said.
He also spoke out against the East Valley legislators who supported SB 1062, saying, “There may be some sort of disconnect between the voters of the East Valley and the legislators.”
His concerns stemmed from past precedent, including the economic damage the state sustained in the late 1980s and early ’90s, when legislators and residents voted against observing Martin Luther King Day. That decision led to the NFL’s decision to move the 1993 Super Bowl to Pasadena, Calif. — a similar situation nearly occurred this time, as the NFL considered moving the 2015 championship game from Glendale — as well as a decline in tourism money.
Arnett also cited 2010’s immigration-based SB 1070 legislation, which he said “clobbered” the state.
“We cannot afford another SB 1070 in our economy,” he said.
Even though the bill didn’t pass, Arnett was concerned the discussion and national attention that came with the bill alone could come back to bite Arizona’s economy.
“Time will tell if it was right or not,” he said.
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