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For, against: Here's what they're saying about the Arizona veto

Laws and LegislationPoliticsCrime, Law and JusticeReligion and BeliefSocial IssuesFreedom of Religion

American politics only irregularly have any kind of suspense; usually, it happens on election night or right before big court rulings. But then there was Arizona on Wednesday evening.

The state's Republican-dominated Legislature had presented Republican Gov. Jan Brewer with a bill that would have boosted business owners' abilities to deny service to gays and other people for religious reasons.

Religious conservatives backed the measure. But several high-profile corporations, including Apple, Marriott and American Airlines, denounced the bill. The National Football League even considered yanking the Super Bowl from Arizona if Brewer signed it into law. 

In a dramatic announcement Wednesday, Brewer revealed that she had vetoed the bill -- a decision that brought cheers from same-sex marriage advocates and grumbles from conservatives.

Here's what opinion leaders are saying about Brewer's move, starting with the governor's own explanation for her veto:

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.): The bill was vague and had no reason to exist in the first place.

"I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences .... I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is nondiscrimination."

Juan Williams, Fox News: The governor was just following the money.

"Note that Gov. Brewer did not voice support for gay rights in her veto statement. The real story here is that she was responding to money and politics. On the money front the governor faced pressure from a growing list of major American companies with business interests in a state which countered the right-wing’s social agenda by urging the governor to veto the bill with the implicit threat of pulling out of Arizona .... What the state senators didn’t realize was that big business is more powerful than the religious right."

State Rep. Chad Campbell, Democratic minority leader in the Arizona House, in the Arizona Republic: Republican legislators embarrassed Arizona, but they are not alone.

"Arizona has been in the spotlight yet again for legislation so incredibly outrageous that it never should have made it to the governor’s desk .... This controversy has already hurt the image of our state, but similar bills have been introduced in about 10 states. The specifics vary, but all of them would allow private corporations to discriminate against LGBT individuals .... Elected officials and courts have a calling to protect people’s rights — not pave the way for corporations to discriminate legally."

Amy Davidson, New Yorker: Brewer's veto saved Arizona from a homophobic law.

"The language was so broad that it could have turned an assertion of religiosity into an all-purpose defense for the firing or unfair treatment of all sorts of people, not only gays and lesbians (although that would be bad enough) — a civil stand-your-discriminatory-ground law. The legal theory is tied up with cases like Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby, in which a private, for-profit company is trying to get an exemption from Obamacare’s contraception-coverage mandate on religious grounds. But the Arizona law had no pretense about its homophobia. The real wonder is that it took several days for Brewer to decide to veto it."

Rich Lowry, Politico magazine: The bill was misunderstood, wrongly demonized, and wrongly vetoed.

"A religious freedom statute doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to do whatever he wants in the name of religion. It simply allows him to make his case in court that a law or a lawsuit substantially burdens his religion and that there is no compelling governmental interest to justify the burden .... The critics of the much-maligned Arizona bill pride themselves on their live-and-let-live open-mindedness, but they are highly moralistic in their support of gay marriage, judgmental of those who oppose it and tolerant of only one point of view on the issue — their own."

Andrew Sullivan, Dish: Arizona state law is already homophobic, but confronting conservatives isn't the answer either.

"In Arizona, gay citizens have no right to marry, and no legal protection against being fired simply for being gay. Indeed, a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim needs no new law to discriminate quite brutally against gay people under the rationale of religious liberty. To argue that the real problem here is the victimization of fundamentalists is therefore bizarre .... [But] as a gay Christian, I’m particularly horrified by the attempt to force anyone to do anything they really feel violates their conscience, sense of self, or even just comfort."

[For the Record, 1:22 p.m. PST, Feb. 27: An earlier version of this post gave Gov. Jan Brewer's first name as Ann.]

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