Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes religious freedom bill criticized as anti-gay

Posted Feb. 26, 2014, at 8:14 p.m.

PHOENIX — Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill on Wednesday that has been derided by critics as a license to discriminate against gays in the name of religion, saying the measure could result in “unintended and negative consequences.”

The measure, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature last week, would have allowed business owners to cite personal religious beliefs as legal grounds for refusing to serve same-sex couples or any other prospective customers. But a number of major business organizations and some fellow Republican politicians had urged Brewer to veto the bill.

Under the measure, a business would be immune to a discrimination lawsuit if a decision to deny service was motivated by “sincerely held” religious beliefs and if providing service would burden exercising of those beliefs.

But many critics, some from her own party, have said the measure could undermine Arizona’s image and damage its economy. Among those have been two close outside advisers and the two U.S. senators from Arizona, both Republicans.

A number of large U.S. corporations such as Apple Inc and American Airlines have similarly weighed in.

Brewer spent much of the day on Wednesday in a series of meetings with several Republicans, including the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Steve Yarbrough, and at least one of three other senators who initially backed the legislation but later urged the governor to veto it.

She also met with a number of business leaders, including Glenn Hamer, head of the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has urged a veto.

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 Virginia.