PHOENIX — Rejecting last minute pleas from supporters, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed controversial legislation billed as protecting religious freedom.
In her first veto of the session, Brewer sided with business and tourism interests who warned of dire consequences to the state's economy if SB 1062 became law.
"I took the necessary time to make the right decision," Brewer said in a brief news conference in which she announced she had vetoed the bill. The news conference was carried live on local and national news channels.
Brewer did not answer questions from reporters after making her announcement. News of the veto was met with cheers from more than 100 protesters gathered outside the state capitol building.
Her decision also came hours after the Hispanic National Bar Association announced it was canceling its scheduled convention in Phoenix in September 2015. "As a national association of lawyers committed to promoting the ideals of equal protection, equal opportunity tolerance and inclusiveness, it is imperative that we speak up and take immediate action in the presence of injustice," said Miguel Pozo, the organization's national president in a prepared statement.
Pozo said his board, which made the decision unanimously, classifies SB 1062 among "laws that return us to a darker time in the nation's history.''
The veto came over the last-minute pleas of Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, the sponsor of the legislation.
Yarbrough said he told the governor she should ignore their concerns, saying noted law professors have concluded the measure does not encourage or condone discrimination.
"I believe the business community has been misinformed, as well as a lot of other folks, about what the bill actually did,'' he said. Yarbrough said those business leaders should read the letter from the law professors.
The senator also said the concerns of the gay community about being victims of discrimination are misplaced. But Yarbrough said he would not support extending existing state civil rights laws that now cover things like race, religion and gender to also included sexual orientation.
"I don't envision doing that," he said.
"Because I don't agree."
Brewer's decision also is a defeat for the Alliance Defending Freedom which bills itself as a Christian public interest law firm that pushed for the change.
"We're seeing growing hostility in America against people of faith," said Doug Napier, a senior vice president with the organization. He said while courts have been good about protecting freedom of religion in a synagogue or church, that hasn't extended to daily life.
"People don't just live out their faith on Sundays or Saturdays," he said. "They have to be protected throughout the week as well."