Arizona’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday, Feb. 20 that would allow business owners to use their religious beliefs as a reason to deny the LGBTQ community business. The bill’s fate is now in the hands of GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, who vetoed related legislation last year, but has said that she believes business owners have the right to deny service to anyone.
“I don’t know that it needs to be statutory,” Brewer told CNN on Friday. “In my life… if I don’t want to do business or if I don’t want to deal with a particular…person…I’m not interested. That’s America. That’s freedom.”
This legislation, also known as Senate Bill 1062, protects businesses from being sued if they assert their religious beliefs when denying service to individuals. It was passed as a response to increased legalization of same-sex marriage across the country, despite the ban placed on it in Arizona in 2008. The bill is similar to proposed bills in other states, including ones that were not passed in Idaho and Kansas, according to USA Today.
Democrats and business owners have criticized the bill, saying that it would “sanction discrimination” in Arizona, “sending a message that [the state] is intolerant and unwelcoming,” according to CNN. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council drafted a letter to Brewer on Friday stating that the “legislation will likely have profound, negative effects on our business community for years to come.” The letter also detailed that “four unidentified companies have vowed to locate elsewhere if the legislation is signed.”
“The legislation places businesses currently in Arizona, as well as those looking to locate here, in potentially damaging risk of litigation, and costly, needless legal disputes,” the letter said. “With major events approaching in the coming year, including Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona will be the center of the world’s stage. This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts.”
Meanwhile, supporters say that the bill is being skewed by its opponents. The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group against same-sex marriage, has said that the bill serves as a response toward the “hostility towards people of faith,” and that people “must take this opportunity to speak up for religious liberty.”
“The Arizona bill has a very simple premise, that Americans should be free to live and work according to their religious faith,” Cathi Herrod, the president for the Center for Arizona Policy told CNN on Friday. “America still stands for the principle that religious beliefs matter for something in this country, that we still have the right to freely exercise our religious beliefs.”
Brewer has not commented on if she will sign this bill into law; she has only said that she has “got to get [her] hands around it.” From the time that the bill arrives at her office, likely this week, she will have five days to sign or veto it, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While there is still no inclination as to what decision she will make, it is clear that her choice will bring great displeasure to many of the people in Arizona.
Editor’s Note: Information from CNN, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today was used in this article.