Brewer has yet to say publicly whether she will sign or veto the
bill, which would allow business owners to cite their personal
religious beliefs as legal justification for refusing to serve
same-sex couples or any other prospective customers.
The measure passed the Republican-controlled state legislature last
week, putting Brewer in the crosshairs of a contentious political
debate at a time when she has sought to ease partisan discord while
focusing on efforts to revive Arizona's economy.
Brewer, who is scheduled to leave office at the end of this year
under term limits, became a lightning rod of controversy early in
her tenure for her support of tough measures to clamp down on
illegal immigration. The immigration crackdown, decried by liberals,
prompted some groups to boycott the state.
The political right has hailed the newly passed bill as a necessary
defense of religious freedom and the left has denounced it as a form
of state-sanctioned discrimination.
Two outside political consultants to Brewer told Reuters they had
each urged her to veto the measure, with one saying her track record
on such issues made him think she was leaning in that direction. But
both stressed no decision had been taken by Brewer.
"We had a vigorous discussion, and I said that she should veto the
bill," longtime political strategist Chuck Coughlin said in an
interview, declining to reveal further details about the private
conversation. "She will let everyone know when she makes up her
The other senior adviser pressing for a veto, Doug Cole, said the
governor planned to sit down with groups from both sides of the
debate on Wednesday to hear their perspectives.
In a sign of the growing unease over the measure, former
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for
president, weighed into the debate via Twitter on Tuesday: "veto of
#SB1062 is right."
Another former Republican candidate for president, Arizona Senator
John McCain, said earlier on CNN that passage of the bill "hurts the
image of the state."
Reflecting concern in the business community, American Airlines
Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker, whose company has merged with
Tempe, Arizona-based U.S. Airways and has a major hub in Phoenix,
wrote a letter to Brewer urging a veto.
"Our economy thrives best when the doors of commerce are open to
all," he wrote. "This bill sends the wrong message."
Brewer has until Saturday to sign the bill into law or veto it. If
she takes no action, the measure will automatically go into effect
91 days after the current legislative session ends.
[to top of second column]
The measure surfaced following a string of federal court victories
by gay activists seeking to strike down restrictions on same-sex
marriage in several states, including New Mexico, Utah, Kentucky and
Seventeen U.S. states and the District of Columbia now recognize gay
marriage in a trend that has gained momentum since the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled in June that legally married same-sex couples nationwide
are eligible for federal benefits.
Arizona is among more than 30 states that still ban gay or lesbian
couples from marrying. Supporters of the Arizona measure argue that
business owners, however, remain vulnerable to lawsuits should they
refuse for religious reasons to provide services to gay couples.
Under the legislation, a business would be immune to a
discrimination lawsuit if a decision to deny service was motivated
by a "sincerely held" religious faith and if providing service would
substantially burden the exercise of those beliefs.
McCain, in his most expansive remarks on the issue so far, said the
bill could damage the state. He cited the strong response from
Arizona business leaders, including the state's Chamber of Commerce,
criticizing the measure.
"This is going to hurt the state of Arizona's economy, and frankly,
our image. So, I hope that the governor of Arizona will veto this
and we move on," he said, adding that he has not talked directly
with Brewer about the proposal.
The measure is being pushed by the conservative Center for Arizona
Policy, which helped write the proposal and says it actually aims at
protecting the religious rights of all.
Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said Apple Inc had also requested a
veto in a conversation with the governor over the weekend. Three
Republican state senators said on Monday they had reconsidered their
support for the bill, and urged a veto.
Apple has announced plans to open a manufacturing facility in
Arizona that is expected to employ 700 workers in partnership with
mineral crystal specialist GT Advanced Technologies Inc.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)
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