Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer faced growing pressure from all corners Tuesday to veto a controversial bill that has been assailed as condoning discrimination against gays and lesbians in the state, as reports indicated she’s leaning against the legislation.
NBC News, citing three people close to Brewer, reports she will likely veto the bill. “It’s been her proclivity in the past to focus on the priorities she wants them [the legislature] to accomplish, and this was clearly not part of her agenda,” Chuck Coughlin, a longtime Brewer adviser, told NBC. And CNN, citing people familiar with her thinking, also reports Brewer will likely wield her veto pen.
Brewer has until the end of the week to side with a growing chorus of critics, which includes many Republicans, or with conservatives touting the bill as protecting religious freedom. The legislation would protect Arizona business owners who refuse to serve gays due to their religious beliefs from lawsuits. Proponents of the measure, which passed the legislature last week, framed it as a straightforward matter of religious liberty. But gay rights advocates said it amounted to sanctioned, anti-gay discrimination, and many Republicans worried it would hurt the state’s image. National Republican leaders are also eager to avoid being embroiled in another contentious social-issues debate; both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich urged Brewer on Tuesday to veto the bill.
While weighing her options, Brewer late on Monday promised to “do the right thing for the state of Arizona.” The governor, a Republican, had earlier signaled that, while she supported the right of businesses to refuse to serve gays, she wasn’t convinced it needed to be made a matter of law. “I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with,” Brewer said on CNN Friday. “But I don’t know that it needs to be statutory.”
After SB1062 passed in the state House and Senate last week, Brewer faced intense pressure, including from other Republicans, to veto the legislation. Many feared the bill would open the state up to lawsuits and could make Arizona a pariah for companies looking to do business. Both of the state’s GOP senators in Washington called for Brewer to veto the measure and at least three of the Republican state senators who originally voted for the bill later signed a letter asking Brewer to veto it.
“While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance,” the senators wrote Monday.
A similar piece of legislation in Kansas died in committee last week.