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As Brewer considers SB 1062, groups make their case at Capitol, elsewhere

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PHOENIX – Michael Salman’s opinion may not have been the most popular among those gathered Tuesday outside the State Capitol, but it was one he wanted heard.

To him, SB 1062, which Democrats, business leaders, civil rights groups and the state’s Republican U.S. senators say deserves a veto, is needed to protect religious freedom in Arizona.

“We should have the right as business people and as churches to say no,” said Salman, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Phoenix. “You can’t force us to do something we don’t want to do and you can’t take us to court.”

Standing just a few yards away, Leonard Clark, who described himself as a human rights activist, held a sign saying “No discrimination” with a red slash through SB 1062. He said the measure aims to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

“We’ve already got this codified into law. If you want to deny somebody … you’re on risky ground, but you can,” he said. “Why have to put this into law just to put salt into the wound?”

With Gov. Jan Brewer considering whether to sign the bill, Democratic lawmakers held a news conference near Clark with Latinos who are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Speakers compared the measure to SB 1070, the controversial 2010 immigration bill that Latino leaders lobbied unsuccessfully against.

“We are asking the governor once again to come out and oppose this type of polarizing, discriminatory bill that continues to haunt the state of Arizona,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, the Senate minority whip. “It continues to put a black cloud over the state of Arizona, continues to hurt our economy, continues to hurt Arizona.”

Paco Chairez, who described himself as a gay Latino immigrant, said he fought four years ago based on his origins and skin color and is doing the same now based on his sexual orientation.

“I believe it sets a bad example for future generations to come, for people who want to come out, who don’t want to live a repressed life,” he said.

The Center for Arizona Policy, the conservative advocacy group that pushed for the bill, posted on its website a fact sheet explaining its stance and encouraging supporters to send notes to Brewer.

Its conclusion: “SB 1062 is necessary to update Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and to close loopholes that might jeopardize a person’s free exercise of religion in Arizona.”

As opponents suggested that SB 1062 could keep people and their wallets away when Glendale plays host to next year’s Super Bowl, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee released a statement saying it doesn’t support the legislation and stands with the NFL on tolerance, diversity on inclusiveness.

“In addition, a key part of the mission for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is to promote the economic vitality of Arizona,” the statement said. “On that matter we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state’s economic growth potential.”

Brewer has until the end of Saturday to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without her signature.

A call to Brewer’s press office wasn’t returned by Tuesday afternoon.