The bill has galvanized business leaders and gay-rights supporters nationwide, united libertarians and Christian conservatives and stirred up a passionate debate on topics like religion and discrimination.
Opponents of the legislation, Senate Bill 1062, call it state-sanctioned discrimination because it provides legal protection to business owners who refuse service to gays. But those on the other side say it's a relatively small change to an existing state law covering religious freedom.
The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. Supporters call the bill a slight tweak to the state's existing religious freedom law. Arizona does not extend civil -rights protections to people based on sexual orientation.
Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed the legislation. Brewer said the bill "could divide Arizona in ways we could not even imagine and no one would ever want." The bill was broadly worded and could result in unintended negative consequences, she added.
Lost in all the rhetoric over the bill on social media, on cable news and in capitol protests is the fact that the legislation is actually a nuanced and complicated legal shift. Here are some questions and answers about the legislation:
WHAT IS SB1062?
The bill is an update of the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has been in place since 1999. Many states have these laws, and Arizona's mirrors a similar 1993 federal law of the same name.
The act already protects churches and religiously observant citizens from laws that substantially burden their exercise of religion. The proposal would expand the law to protect any individual, association or corporation from discrimination lawsuits if their actions are based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
Proponents say the bill before the governor is designed to give businesses the right to refuse to participate in gay marriages and other activities that run afoul of their religious beliefs.
WHAT IS THE RATIONALE FOR THE BILL?
Some states, including Oregon and New Mexico, have extended the definition of "protected classes" in their laws to include lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. Protected classes under federal law include sex, race, national origin or religion. Those expanded laws have been used to sue small businesses whose owners refused to provide services at gay marriages.
In New Mexico, a photographer was sued amid objections over a gay couple wanting wedding pictures taken. In Oregon, a baker who refused to do a gay couple's wedding cake faced a complaint.
Arizona lawmakers who support the bill believe such legal actions are wrong. They say the wedding photographer and baker are being discriminated against because of their religion, and they want to make sure similar situations don't occur in Arizona.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
Opponents say the Arizona law is so broadly written that it could allow bartenders, restaurant owners and practically any business to use it as a shield to refuse service to people whose lifestyle isn't in accordance with their beliefs. They say it will basically open the door to discrimination against gays and other groups of people.