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Brewer vetoes SB 1062, citing potential for unintended consequences

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PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062 on Wednesday, saying the measure that was touted as supporting religious liberty was broadly worded and could lead to “unintended and negative consequences.”

“I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve,” Brewer said at a news conference called early in the evening.

“Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value; so is nondiscrimination,” she added.

Business leaders, advocates and Arizona’s two Republican U.S. senators urged Brewer to veto the measure, which opponents said would empower businesses to discriminate against gays and others and would trump ordinances in cities such as Phoenix and Tucson against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

A large crowd outside the State Capitol erupted in cheers as she made the announcement, which was carried live on television.

“I am very happy that she vetoed the bill, but the nightmare isn’t over,” said Jo Beaudry, who was with her partner, Christina Hatler. “She needs to make sure all the decisions she makes serve all the people of Arizona in the next few months.”

The governor said that the bill wouldn’t address a “specific and present concern” related to religious liberty in Arizona.

“I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated,” she said.

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, applauded Brewer’s decision but slammed the “handful of extremists” who pushed SB 1062 through the Legislature and the Center for Arizona Policy, the conservative advocacy group that called for a law.

“It is time to put a stop to the control that these unelected extremists have in the Legislature,” Campbell said. “We will not be held hostage by their right-wing, extremist agenda.”

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, who voted for the measure, released a statement saying that he respects the governor’s decision, “especially in light of the concerns brought up over the past week.”

“I understand the concerns of people of good faith on all sides of this issue,” said Tobin, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Supporters said the bill would address a gap in Arizona’s 1999 law on religious freedom, citing a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that said a photographer couldn’t to turn down a lesbian couple based on the photographer’s religious beliefs.

“Today’s veto of SB 1062 marks a sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty,” Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said in a statement posted on the group’s website.

As Brewer held meetings Wednesday to inform her decision, the Hispanic National Bar Association canceled plans to hold its 2015 annual convention in Phoenix. The association’s 2013 convention in Denver nearly 2,000 people.

“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,” the association said in a statement.

Also Wednesday, Sports Illustrated reported that the National Football League had begun investigating the possibility of moving the 2015 Super Bowl from Glendale if SB 1062 became law.

The Human Rights Campaign, a group advocating for the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, arrived in the Executive Tower on Wednesday carrying boxes that leaders said contained 63,000 signatures opposing SB 1062.

Sheila Kloefkorn, a member of the group’s board, said she sees as a business owner how the bill would harm the economy.

“I want to make sure I can attract top talent,” she said. “The more that we show we are diverse and inclusive, the greater state and the more economic vitality we’re going to have.”

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce of Industry was among business groups that called for a veto, saying the measure could hurt the state’s economic recovery.

Businesses continued sending messages urging a veto Wednesday, including a fax from Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden citing concern about the company’s 228 Arizona-based employees.

“This divisive law implies that all are not welcome, that diversity is not tolerate, and that a healthy business climate is an acceptable sacrifice to special interests,” Tilden said in the letter.