Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday announcing she had vetoed Senate Bill 1062.Ross D. Franklin/AP
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed a Republican bill that set off a national debate over gay rights, religion and discrimination and subjected her state to blistering criticism from major corporations and political leaders from both parties.
The bill, backed by Republicans in the Arizona Legislature, was designed to give added protection from lawsuits to people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays. But opponents called it an open attack on Arizona's LGBT community.
The bill thrust Arizona into the national spotlight last week after both chambers of the state Legislature approved it. As the days passed, more and more groups, politicians and average citizens weighed in against Senate Bill 1062. Many took to social media to criticize the bill.
Prominent Phoenix business groups said it would be another black eye for the state and warned that businesses looking to expand into Arizona might not do so if the bill became law.
Companies such as Apple and American Airlines and politicians including Arizona's senior GOP senator, John McCain, were among those who urged Brewer to veto the legislation.
The governor was under intense pressure to veto the bill, including from three Republicans who had voted for it last week. They said in a letter to Brewer that while the intent of their vote "was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance."
SB 1062 would allow people to use their religious beliefs as a defense against claims of discrimination. Backers cite a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to document their wedding, even though the law that allowed that suit doesn't exist in Arizona.
Republican state Sen. Steve Yarbrough called his proposal a First Amendment issue during a Senate debate.
"This bill is not about allowing discrimination," Yarbrough said. "This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith."
Democrats said it was a veiled attempt to legally discriminate against gay people and cite religious freedom as a defense.