Arizona legislators shelve gay bill

Legislators in Arizona appear to be giving up the fight for vetoed legislation that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds.

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Although a number of Republicans, conservative groups and religious rights advocates have said the bill is needed to protect constitutionally guaranteed rights, the GOP-led legislature is ready to move on to other issues, according to the state senator who sponsored the contentious proposal.

"I doubt we will try again this year," Sen. Steven B. Yarbrough (R) said Friday in a short email. "We have a lot of other legislation to try to get home and there will be the inevitable changes manifested by election year."

The news won't be welcomed by the conservative pundits and advocacy groups that had urged the bill's passage. Many of those voices, outraged at Gov. Jan Brewer's (R) veto, were likely hopeful that the Republican-led legislature would try again this year.

"This is how fundamental freedoms are trampled. You create a stampede by spooking politicians in public with misinformation," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in an interview with Fox News earlier in the week. "This is going to continue to be a major problem and it’s going to spread across the country,” he added. “Who’s going to protect the rights of Christians and religious people? That’s the question that has to be answered."

Passed last week by Arizona's Senate on a strict party-line vote, Yarbrough's bill would have empowered Arizona businesses and individuals to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers based on "sincerely held" religious beliefs.

Pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), a conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage, the measure was hailed by supporters as necessary for protecting religious freedoms.

But the critical response was forceful. Not only did Democrats and human rights advocates attack the measure as blatant discrimination, but a number of high-profile Republican lawmakers — including Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake — joined the chorus urging Brewer to kill the bill.

The business community also jumped in, with corporate powerhouses like Apple, Intel and American Airlines warning that such a law would discourage their activities in the state. The National Football League, which is scheduled to stage its 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale, was reportedly eyeing other venues.

Faced with the pressure, Brewer on Wednesday vetoed the measure, arguing that it was an unnecessary step that "could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine."

"As governor, I have protected religious freedoms when there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state,” she said. “Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated."

Calls to the Center for Arizona Policy were not returned Friday, but the group was quick to post a statement Wednesday slamming Brewer's veto as an attack on religious liberties.

"When the force of government compels one to speak or act contrary to their conscience, the government injures not only the dignity of the afflicted, but the dignity of our society as a whole," said CAP President Cathi Herrod.  

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