Corporate, Political Pressure Rising on Ariz. Governor Over Anti-Gay Bill

PHOTO: Cameras follow Arizona Governor Jan Brewer as she walks through the National Governors Association Winter Meeting at the JW Marriott in Washington, Feb. 22, 2014.
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Gov. Jan Brewer has returned to Arizona, facing rising pressure on many fronts over a bill on her desk that has prompted a national debate over religious and gay rights.

The bill – passed last week by the state’s Legislature – would allow businesses to deny service to gay people based on the religious beliefs of the business owner.

The legislation has caused an uproar, with the chorus of opposition growing each day. Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was the latest prominent voice to weigh in and urge Brewer to veto the bill.

Read more: Businesses Urge Governor to Veto Bill

Brewer, who had been in Washington for a governor’s conference, posted a message on Twitter pledging to “do the right thing for the State of Arizona.”

Brewer will likely spend the next day or more pondering Senate Bill 1062 before deciding whether to sign or veto the legislation. If she doesn’t reach a decision by the end of Saturday, it will automatically become law.

There is widespread speculation that Brewer will veto the bill, but she has not said how she'll act, as is her longtime practice with pending legislation.

The bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. The group says the proposal simply clarifies existing state law and is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts.

Arizona residents remain divided on the issue. Michael Salmon of Phoenix supports the bill and he says supporters are afraid to speak out.

“This is not about hate or bigotry of any sort, but rather the protection of religious rights,” Salmon told KNXV, the region’s ABC affiliate. “People of religion have the right to say no.”

Silvana Salcido Esparza owns Barrio Café, a restaurant in Phoenix. Esparza is also gay, so she feels compelled to speak out against the bill. Esparza plans on welcoming anyone into her restaurant, regardless of sexual orientation.

“We’re moving forward. Let’s not move backward. I have a right just like everybody else … and this is just wrong. What message are we sending?” she told KNXV.

The bill could have deep impacts for the state. Major companies have criticized the legislation, including Marriott Hotels, Apple, American Airlines and Yelp. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman wrote an open letter to Brewer.

“Protecting the consumer has been – and will continue to be – our main priority. I believe that every consumer has a right to be served by a business without fear of discrimination,” Stoppelman wrote.

The NFL is also watching the decision closely, as next year’s Super Bowl is set to be played in Arizona. The Arizona Cardinals, the NFL and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee all issued statements voicing disagreement with the bill.

“A key part of the mission for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is to promote the economic vitality of Arizona,” the committee wrote in a statement. “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.”

The Associated Press and ABC News Radio contributed to this report.

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