With a stroke of her pen, Arizona Republican Jan Brewer can veto SB 1062, the bill that allows businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians under the guise of exercising their religious freedom. Although the bill was popular enough with GOP lawmakers to pass the Arizona state senate and state house, pressure is mounting on Brewer to veto the legislation. Fearing economic repercussions, the state’s business leaders have lined up against the measure. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council released a joint statement yesterday that read in part:
After analyzing the bill, we are very concerned about the effect it could have on Arizona’s economy. As leaders in the business community, we cannot support measures that could expose our businesses to litigation, nor do we want to send a message that our state is anything but an open and attractive place for visitors and the top talent that will be the cornerstone of our continued economic growth.
Major companies like Apple and American Airlines have also lined up to oppose the bill. Compounding Governor Brewer’s dilemma, three Republican lawmakers who voted for the bill now regret their votes and want her to veto the legislation. Bob Worsley, Steve Pierce, and Adam Driggs, all Republicans who supported the measure, now say they oppose it. Both Republican U.S Senators from Arizona, Jeff Flake and John McCain, also are urging the Governor to reject the bill. By a two to one margin, Republican voters in the state say they want Jan Brewer to veto the bill as well.
However, perhaps the surest sign that SB 1062 is in trouble, is that the Republican presidential candidate from 2012, Mitt Romney, has joined the growing chorus of opposition. With Romney’s opposition, Brewer has additional political cover if she decides to veto the bill. Both U.S. Senators from Arizona oppose the bill. So do the last two Republican presidential candidates. So do a majority of the state’s Republican voters. So does most of the state’s business elites. Jan Brewer, who is term-limited, should have an easy choice in striking down the bigoted bill.
Brewer has a chance to decide whether her legacy as Governor of Arizona will end on a pragmatic high note, or whether she will succumb to the temptation of anti-gay bigotry and become this century’s Lester Maddox. Similar bills to Arizona’s anti-gay bill have been proposed in backwards GOP-dominated legislatures in Kansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee. However, while it may appear that the Christian far right is flexing its muscle in a national show of strength, that apparent strength is an illusion. Outside of state capitol buildings were Tea Party lawmakers feverishly try to pander to the most bigoted elements of their party, the idea of discriminating against LGBT Americans is losing its appeal to most Americans. Tone deaf Republican state senators and representatives may still have an appetite for homophobia, but the rest of the nation is growing weary of gay bashing. State capitol buildings are becoming the last holdouts for anti-gay bigotry.
Even Mitt Romney, who courted the Christian Right in 2012, and who is a member of the Mormon Church that fought so vigorously to oppose gay marriage in California in 2008, has turned away from anti-gay zealotry. Romney now joins the ranks of Republican leaders who advocate tolerance. Sure he is a follower and not a leader, coming to his position behind several other GOP officials, but his support for a veto symbolizes just how badly the social conservatives are losing the culture war.
There is no question that the Arizona legislature made a monumental mistake in supporting this discriminatory bill, and now the Republicans in the state are scrambling into damage control mode to kill the bill. Jan Brewer has not yet stated whether she intends to veto the bill, but in the face of a crescendo of opposition even within her own party, she would be a fool not to. With a stroke of her veto pen Jan Brewer can kill SB 1062 in Arizona. If she holds back on vetoing the bill she can kill the Republican Party’s future in Arizona. The choice now rests in her hands.