Phoenix, AZ, United States (4E) – Some 200 people marched to the Arizona governor’s office Friday to protest against a recently-passed local bill that allows business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.
The protest of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) group Wingspan was staged as Democratic state lawmakers called SB 1062 or the “Right to Refuse Service Bill” discriminatory while the investment promotion agency Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) warned in a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer dated Friday that businesses will be open to damaging litigation and costly legal disputes.
“SB 1062 purports to strengthen religious rights, a matter that concerns us all. We each have the freedom to believe and worship as our consciences may dictate, but we don’t have the right to treat others improperly based on their beliefs or personal characteristics. There is already enough protection in the law to ensure legitimate expression of religious belief,” Wingspan said in a statement. “SB 1062 will only lead to increased hostility between and among Arizonans, and will distract us with expensive lawsuits. Wingspan strongly urges Governor Brewer to show leadership and veto this outrageous bill.”
GPEC President Barry Broome also warned that the bill could subject the Super Bowl XLIX and other major Arizona events to boycotts. Broome said four unidentified companies have vowed to locate elsewhere if Brewer signs the legislation into law.
The Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona also regard SB 1062 as discriminatory.
Anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage group Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) defended the bill Saturday. The CAP helped draft SB 1062 after a New Mexico photographer was sued when she refused to photograph a same-sex wedding.
CAP President Cathi Herrod told CNN Friday that the bill is “simply about protecting religious liberty and nothing else” as Americans should be free to live and work according to their religious faith.
“America still stands for the principle that religious beliefs matter (for) something in this country, that we have the right to freely exercise our religious beliefs,” Herrod said.
CAP representative Aaron Baer told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s “Arizona’s Morning News Weekend” on Saturday that it is not anti-gay.
Baer said that the legislation is needed because judges around the country are ignoring laws that have been on the federal books since 1993 and in Arizona since 1999, and persecuting people of faith.
Baer allayed fears that the bill will let companies discriminate by refusing service to gay people, African-Americans or anyone they want. He said existing laws could have led to discrimination happening but did not.
Meanwhile, Brewer has yet to sign the controversial bill passed by the state House of Representatives on Thursday via a 33-27 vote. The governor plans to review the bill, according to her advisers.