Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced that she has vetoed a bill that would have allowed state businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers.
“The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences," Brewer told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday. "After weighing all of the arguments I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago.”
Brewer made her remarks during a press conference announced with little notice on Wednesday evening.
Despite the short notice, a large crowd of demonstrators quickly gathered outside the state capital in Phoenix before Brewer made her remarks. The crowd of demonstrators erupted into cheers after Brewer’s announcement.
Senate bill 1062 generated national attention after it was passed by the Republican controlled legislature. However, its momentum quickly stalled after it was criticized by a number of local business leader and the state’s two Republican U.S. Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.
Flake and McCain saluted Brewer on Wednesday night in posts to their respective Twitter accounts:
“I have protected religious freedoms when there is a present concern,” Brewer said, defending her decision during the press conference. “And I have a record to prove it.”
Despite herself being conservative Republican lawmaker, Brewer used her remarks to criticize the state Senate for making the religious freedom bill a priority over other concerns.
The bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group opposed to same sex marriage.
“This is the first policy bill to cross my desk,” Brewer said. “It does not address a specific concern related to Arizona. I have not heard one example where a business owner’s liberty has been put into jeopardy.”
Brewer said she had previously instructed state lawmakers that “passing a responsible budget that continues Arizona’s economic comeback,” should be the legislature’s top priority.
On Tuesday, Brewer hinted at her decision, writing on her Twitter account:
I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the State of Arizona. #SB1062— Jan Brewer (@GovBrewer) February 26, 2014
“I call them like I see them despite the tears or the boos from the crowd,” Brewer said. “I took the necessary time to make the right decision.”
Brewer said she met with attorneys and policy advisers who both supported and opposed the bill. She also offered condolences to religious individuals who feel their freedom is being called into question in light of rapid advancements in gay rights and marriage equality.
“Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is nondiscrimination,” Brewer said. “Going forward let’s turn the ugliness over Senate bill 1062 into a greater search for greater respect and understanding among all Arizonans and Americans.”
After concluding her remarks, Brewer quickly exited the podium without taking questions from the press.