A bill being viewed by some as discriminatory and by others as a protection of religious freedom will go before Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday.
Senate Bill 1062, which allows private business owners to deny service to gays and lesbians based on religious freedom, passed the Republican-controlled state Senate last week before also receiving approval by the state House of Representatives in a 33-27 vote on Thursday.
Brewer, who is still in the process of weighing the mixed input she has received from critics and supporters, spoke to CNN on Friday, but gave no distinct indication as to her leaning.
“I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with,” Brewer said. “But I don’t know that it needs to be statutory. In my life and in my businesses, if I don’t want to do business or if I don’t want to deal with a particular company or person or whatever, I’m not interested. That’s America. That’s freedom.”
The bill has gained national attention since its inception, receiving support primarily from conservatives and criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
That pattern is similar at the local level, where legislators from five Arizona districts unanimously voted no on the bill, one district saw mixed votes, and two districts unanimously supported it.
Sen. Al Melvin, R-District 11, announced his support of the bill on Saturday.
“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), also known as SB1062, protects the rights of every Arizonan to work and live according to their faith,” Melvin wrote in a release. “It prohibits punishing someone because of faith. It is common sense, it is a good law, it was carefully crafted, it was supported by more than 90 percent of the Republicans in the legislature, and I strongly urge the governor to sign the bill.”
A candidate for governor, Melvin also announced his displeasure with fellow Republican candidates that did not support the bill.
“I was disappointed how fast my fellow Republican candidates for governor caved to the media and liberal pressure,” wrote Melvin. “Each of them offered excuses, but none of them were willing to stand up and publicly fight to protect the religious liberties of Arizonan citizens and businesses.”
But local business organizations such as the Tucson Metro Chamber, the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Marana Chamber of Commerce have taken the opposite stance, each publicly announcing their disapproval of the bill.
The Tucson Metro Chamber sent a letter to Brewer asking her to veto the bill.
“We are writing to you on behalf of the 1,450 member businesses of the Tucson Metro Chamber and their 110,000 employees to ask that you veto SB1062. While the authors of SB1062 may have had good intentions, it is our opinion that, if enacted, SB1062 will have immediate and long term negative economic impact,” the letter stated.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson said it makes sense that the bill, sponsored by Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, is unfavorable to such business organizations.
“I think this bill makes a statement … that we don’t welcome people here,” Farley said. “This bill gets in the way. This bill sends the wrong message around the country and around the world.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently tweeted, “I hope Governor Brewer will veto#SB1062.”
The bill was introduced after a New Mexico case in which a gay coupled successfully sued a wedding photographer for denying service.
Here’s how Arizona lawmakers voted on the bill:
Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, no
Rep. Rosanna Gabaldón, no
Rep. Demion Clinco, no
Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, no
Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, no
Rep. Macario Saldate, no
Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, no
Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla, no
Rep. Lisa Otondo, no
Sen. Barbara McGuire, no
Rep. Frank Pratt, yes
Rep. T.J. Shope, yes
Sen. Steve Farley, no
Rep. Ethan Orr, no
Rep. Victoria Steele, no
Sen. Dave Bradley, no
Rep. Stefanie Mach, no
Rep. Bruce Wheeler, no
Sen. Al Melvin, yes
Rep. Adam Kwasman, yes
Rep. Steve Smith, yes
Sen. Gail Griffin, yes
Rep. David Gowan, yes
Rep. David Stevens, yes