Steve Yarbrough

State Sen. Steve Yarbrough [Courtesy Arizona State Legislature]


Courtesy Arizona State Legislature

Proponents of a change in laws on religious freedom get a last chance today to convince Gov. Jan Brewer to sign the legislation.

Brewer will let Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, make his case of why Arizona needs a new law expanding the right of individuals to refuse to provide service to others. But the governor also is giving those seeking a veto some time to plead their case.

Press aide Andrew Wilder denied reports Brewer already has made up her mind. He said any comments by former advisers “are people who know her well and may have an insight” into how she thinks.

“They are welcome to their own conclusions,” Wilder said. “But ultimately the decision is hers – and hers alone – to make.”

He did promise a prompt decision, saying the only thing that delayed action was that Brewer was in Washington for the National Governors Association.

Current laws let businesses use their “sincerely held” religious beliefs as a shield against government regulations. SB 1062 extends that to civil lawsuits.

Brewer also is looking at public perception, including charges it provides a license to discriminate against gays and others. That has created a blowback Arizona businesses say is already hurting them.

Just Tuesday Greg Vigdor, president of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association told Brewer in a letter about the current shortage of doctors.

“SB 1062 has the potential to add to this problem as Arizona suffers bad publicity that influences practitioners to look elsewhere to provide their services,” he wrote. Vigdor said one surgeon who had been weighing relocation already has decided to go elsewhere.

There are other fears.

The National Football League issued a statement saying it is following SB 1062, leading to questions of whether the league might move the 2015 Super Bowl now slated for Glendale. There is precedent: The 1993 Super Bowl that was supposed to occur in Tempe went elsewhere after voters refused to enact a holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

There also is the question of whether there really is a problem in Arizona.

The Center for Arizona Policy, which has been pushing SB 1062, has cited businesses in New Mexico and Colorado being sued for refusing to provide services to gays. But no one has offered any specific examples of issues here.

The bigger issue for Brewer could be that the legislation might stall the economic recovery the governor has touted as part of her legacy. Virtually every major business group has asked for a veto, as have some high-profile current and future employers like American Airlines and Apple, the latter which is announced just last year it intends to build a new manufacturing facility in Mesa.

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