McCain, others urge Arizona governor to veto bill criticized as anti-gay

Protesters gather at the Arizona state Capitol in opposition to a bill that would allow businesses to use religious liberty as grounds for denying gays and lesbians service.
(CHERYL EVANS / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON -- Both of Arizona’s senators have taken to Twitter, publicly calling on Gov. Jan Brewer to veto legislation that would allow businesses to use religion as a basis for denying service to gays and lesbians.

“I hope Governor Brewer will veto #SB1062,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tweeted Monday morning, repeating nearly word-for-word a tweet Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sent out on Saturday.

Amid a media firestorm over the bill, the senators’ urging is the latest sign that the Republican establishment is seeking to distance itself from extreme conservative positions that might hurt the party in upcoming midterm elections.


Democrats pounced on the legislation as another example of a Republican-sponsored discriminatory law targeting gays and lesbians.

Brewer, a Republican, is expected to decide on the bill by the end of the week.

Another blow to the controversial bill came Monday after three Republican state lawmakers urged the governor to veto the measure, despite having voted for it just last week.

“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,” State Sens. Bob Worsley, Adam Driggs and Steve Pierce wrote in a letter. “These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.”

In addition to attracting national media attention, the bill was used by comedian Jon Stewart as fodder for a segment last week about a similar Kansas law that failed in that state’s Senate.

But despite the growing vocal criticism and contentious nature of the issue, the bill’s supporters say the legislation is laudable for protecting religious liberty.

“This legislation reaffirms the basic principle that the fundamental rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion do not stop at the exit door of your local church, and instead extend to every area of life,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Friday in a statement.

Last week, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz pushed GOP governors to come out strongly against similar legislation, “kicking [the laws] back into the dustbin of history where they belong.”

Currently in Washington, D.C. for a National Governors Association meeting, Brewer said she believes businesses can deny service but is unsure it should be codified in law.

“I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with,” she told CNN on Friday. “But I don’t know that it needs to be statutory.”

Twitter: @danielrothberg