With major companies, lawmakers and even the NFL coming out against an Arizona bill that would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer reportedly inched closer to a decision to veto the controversial legislation.
Late Tuesday, Brewer took to Twitter to address the bill, stating “I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the State of Arizona #SB1062”
Brewer returned to Phoenix Tuesday evening from Washington and sources told NBC News that she could veto the bill after she returns. She is scheduled to meet with supporters and opponents of SB 1062, which allows businesses to deny services to any person based on the religious beliefs of the business owner. Brewer has until Saturday to decide whether to sign or reject the legislation.
Opponents of the bill say that they are hopeful Brewer will veto SB 1062 and strike another blow against similar legislation being pushed around the country. “It could only help if [Gov. Brewer] were to veto the bill,” Eunice Rho, Acvocacy and Policy Council for the American Civil Liberties Union, told msnbc. “It would be a real validation of the breadth of opposition we’re seeing” from activists in states from Idaho to Georgia.
While Brewer has supported a number of far-right conservative bills in her tenure, the delay in taking action on SB 1062 is similar to the moment last year when she bucked the expectations of her party’s fringe and expanded Medicaid in Arizona. Brewer pushed for months to pass the expansion which could add $2 billion to the state’s economy and thousands of jobs.
Yet this is hardly the first time Brewer has placed herself in the national spotlight while holding a pen. Since taking office in 2009, the conservative Republican has been at the center of debates over nearly every hot button issue from guns to immigration to gay rights.
In 2010, Brewer signed a law that made it possible for more Arizona residents to carry concealed weapons without permits. When Tucson Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and 18 others were wounded in a mass shooting in January 2011, Brewer called it “one of these horrible tragedies that we have to face,” although she did not push for stronger gun regulation in her state.
Brewer also signed a notorious immigration bill, SB 1070, that same year. That bill criminalized transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants and gave police broad power to detain people they suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. SB 1070 was one of the most restrictive immigration laws in the nation, and Brewer faced widespread protests from immigrant rights activists over her support of it.
Since 2010, many parts of that law were struck down by the Supreme Court, and Brewer is still fighting in court over the transportation and harboring provision.
It’s not only civil rights advocates that have tussled with Brewer. In 2012, she and President Obama shared a tense moment on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport as he arrived in Air Force One. The source of the conflict was reportedly Brewer’s recently released book and her characterization of a meeting over SB 1070. In it, she referred to the President as “condescending” and “patronizing.”
With so much time before Brewer must announce her decision on the new bill, more prominent business and political leaders are likely to speak out against it. That could provide Brewer with the political cover necessary to veto the bill and retain the spotlight.
This news comes as businesses, gay rights advocacy groups, and politicians in her own party are calling for her to veto the bill. Major businesses continued to release statements through Tuesday condemning the legislation. Apple, Marriott Hotels, Yelp, Delta and American Airlines have all said that the bill could have a devastating effect on Arizona’s economy. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans, tweeted at Brewer asking her to exercise her veto power, and three Republican State Senators now say they do not support the bill and do not want to see it become law. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has close ties with the Marriott family and serves on the company’s board of directors, tweeted on Tuesday that rejecting the bill “is right.”
Arizona business leaders also released a statement Monday pleading with Brewer to veto SB 1062. “As leaders in the business community, we cannot support measures that could expose our businesses to litigation, nor do we want to send a message that our state is anything but an open and attractive place for visitors and the top talent that will be the cornerstone of our continued economic growth,” the statement read.
Human Rights Campaign state legislative director Sarah Warbelow said opposition from major corporations like Apple are likely to influence Brewer’s decision. “When large corporations speak, legislators and governors listen,” Warbelow told msnbc. “They don’t always ultimately always agree with them, but they pay attention in a new way.”
For these companies, the bill is about more than profit margins, says Rho. “A number of companies have made it clear that it’s not just a bottom line issue. They have LGBT employees and endorse anti-discrimination principles.” In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, computer chip manufacturer Intel said just that. “Intel values and welcomes diversity in the workplace. Arizona Senate Bill 1062 would legalize actions that directly conflict with Intel’s own non-discrimination policy,” the statement read. “That policy was developed in order to create a welcoming business climate for our employees, suppliers and the global marketplace. We believe that SB 1062 would have a detrimental effect on the local business community by promoting discord and damaging Arizona’s status as a hospitable place to grow business and attract top talent.”
Similar bills are under consideration in several other states. The Center for Arizona Policy – a socially conservative group – has successfully pushed through other anti-equality legislation, such as a bill that denied health benefits to domestic partners of state employees, which Brewer signed. Some conservatives have argued that bills like those proposed in Kansas would apply only to marriage ceremonies and celebrations, but the bills are in fact written much more broadly.