From American Express to eBay, Businesses Cheer Arizona's Vetoing of Anti-Gay Bill
From eBay to American Express and AT&T, big businesses across the U.S. supported Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s move last night to veto a law that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to customers because of religious beliefs.
Arizona Senate Bill 1062 became law a week ago when it passed both the House and Senate. “Opponents of religious freedom continue to argue that for-profit businesses do not have consciences. They argue that businesses cannot operate according to a sincerely held religious belief,” the bill stated. Under the bill, businesses and legal entities would have been legally protected for choosing not to serve gay and lesbian customers.
Last night, Brewer told the press that based on her conversations with lawmakers, attorneys and citizens, it was best for the state of Arizona that she veto the measure. “My job is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona,” said Brewer. “I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business person’s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
Brewer said her focus is strengthening the Arizona economy and that the Senate bill “has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve,” she said. “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona liberty. So is non-discrimination.”
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce immediately tweeted its support of Brewer’s action, saying that “Arizona is open for business!” It also thanked the governor in the tweet below:
Arizona’s business community jointly issued a statement saying the law would have made it more challenging for them to compete for talent. “We feel strongly that this piece of legislation represents bad public policy with the potential of causing significant detrimental economic impact to the state of Arizona,” the letter said.
“This legislation will greatly impact our ability to not only attract top talent to move to Arizona, but will also greatly inhibit our ability to recruit businesses to relocate here. We worry about our ability to succeed in competing with other markets.” The letter was signed by nearly 100 businesses either headquartered in Arizona or with significant staff working in the state, including eBay, American Express and AT&T.
“This legislation is frivolous, unnecessary and fiscally perilous. Arizona business owners already have the right to refuse business to anyone. There is no need for this legislation, and we believe it is attempting to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” the letter from Arizona business leaders read.
Also, Arizona is set to host the Super Bowl in February of 2015 and the organizing committee spoke up against the legislation. “We share the NFL's core values which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination. In addition, a key part of the mission for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is to promote the economic vitality of Arizona,” the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee said in a letter. “On that matter we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential.”
Tech giant Apple, whose CEO Tim Cook is openly gay, was reported to have talked to Brewer encouraging her to reverse course on the legislation passed in her state.
Even Republican Senator John McCain was in support of rolling back the law. “I hope that we can now move on from this controversy,” McCain said in a statement released after Brewer’s veto.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.