Arizona Gov To Speak On Discrimination Bill Thursday
PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov, Jan Brewer will finally break her silence about a Republican bill that protects people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays and others.
Brewer plans to make a statement on Senate Bill 1062 Thursday evening. She’s been considering whether to sign or veto the legislation that has caused a national uproar.
Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the bill being pushed by social conservatives, saying it would allow discriminatory actions by businesses and hurt the state’s economy by driving away business.
Brewer vetoed a similar measure last year, but that came during a battle over her push to expand Medicaid in the state after she imposed a signing moratorium to force the Legislature to approve her expansion proposal.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer held a series of private meetings Wednesday with opponents and proponents of legislation adding protections for people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays, a proposal that has focused national attention on the state as business groups, gay rights supporters and even many fellow Republicans urged her to use her veto power.
Among those meeting with the governor was the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, who said it was essentially his chance to give a closing argument. He said his efforts were intended to extend the reach of the state’s religious-freedom law to businesses and corporations and allow those sued for discrimination to cite the law even when the government isn’t a party. A veto would be disappointing, he said.
"It’s quality legislation, and there’s no good reason at all as far of the merit of this bill to not sign it," Yarbrough said. "This bill does simply, basically, three things ... and that all it does. And it doesn’t have anything to do with creating opportunities for discrimination that in any fashion is greater than what exists in the law currently. "
The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. Supporters call the bill a slight tweak to the state’s existing religious freedom law. Arizona does not extend civil -rights protections to people based on sexual orientation.
The governor faces a Saturday deadline to either sign Senate Bill 1062 or use her veto stamp. In a tweet from her official twitter account late Tuesday, the governor said: "I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the State of Arizona."
Brewer has been under increasing pressure to veto the proposal passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The proposal passed with support from all but three House Republicans and all 17 GOP state senators.
Three of those senators, however, reversed course Monday and called for the governor to veto the Senate Bill 1062. They were among opposition Republican lawmakers meeting with her Wednesday.
"Our position is clear - we think it is a mistake for Arizona to have this controversy, and we would like her to veto the bill," said Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa. "It’s very frustrating to her to see what the state’s going through. It’s very painful."