Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is facing mounting pressure from corporations, sports franchises, clergy and lawmakers to veto a bill that would allow business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers.
Apple, American Airlines, Marriott Hotels, and the NFL joined a growing chorus of national voices against Senate Bill 1062 which would build on the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and allow business owners to turn away gays and lesbians as long as their decision is based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
Similar initiatives are under consideration in a handful of states. Arizona’s bill, passed last week, first sparked an outcry from LGBT advocacy groups and small businesses that argued the bill legalizes discrimination.
By Monday, some of the country’s best-known and largest companies took a stand on the issue with Apple among the most influential. Apple is preparing to open a new glass manufacturing plant in Mesa, Ariz., which will employ around 700 full-time employees.
Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder confirmed with the Arizona Capitol Times that Apple pressed the governor to veto the bill as it would induce damaging economic effects to the state.
Brewer, who is in Washington for governor meetings, said Saturday that she has “plenty of time” to make a decision. “You know, the bill is in transmittal and I don’t have to make a decision until next Friday.”
But corporate CEOs were not waiting.
American Airlines’ CEO wrote to Brewer that Arizona’s tourism and business community would suffer greatly as a result of the legislation.
“Wholly apart from the stated intent of this legislation, the reality is that it has the very real potential of slowing down the momentum we have achieved by reducing the desire of businesses to locate in Arizona and depressing the travel and tourism component of the economy if both convention traffic and individual tourists decide to go elsewhere,” CEO Doug Parker wrote. ”Our economy thrives best when the doors of commerce are open to all. This bill sends the wrong message.”
Arizona’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, took to Twitter to urge Brewer to oppose the bill.
Three state senators also backpedaled their support for the legislation, saying they regretted voting yes. State Senators Adam Driggs, Steve Pierce and Bob Worsley said that the proposal had been approved too quickly and urged for a veto. The bill passed the State Senate, 17-13, across party lines, and would have been defeated if the three senators voted against the measure.
“While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance,” the state senators wrote.
With news that Super Bowl XLIX will be held in Glendale, Arizona, in 2015, the NFL released a statement Monday. “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” read the statement. “We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”
The Arizona Superbowl host committee also released a statement. “A key part of the mission for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is to promote the economic vitality of Arizona,” the committee wrote. “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. We do not support this legislation.”
Actor and activist George Takei, who owns a vacation home in Arizona and whose husband was born in the state, wrote on his personal blog, ”If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake: We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know-from large corporations to small families on vacation-to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.”
A day after the bill was passed, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Technology Council with a total of 84 companies signing a letter, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce came out against it. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Greater Phoenix Leadership have also placed pressure on the governor.