Arizona’s state legislature passed a bill late last week that would allow businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians due to the owners’ religious beliefs. Governor Jan Brewer now must decide whether to sign or veto the bill, which she is expected to do later this week.
The measure was touted by sponsors as giving business owners the freedom to uphold their personal beliefs. Many social and religious conservative groups supported the bill. But while it may give business owners more rights, it’s already proving damaging to Arizona’s business climate.
Several large corporations including American Airlines and Marriott have pressured Governor Brewer to veto the bill, and, if passed, it may even deter Apple from investing in a sapphire glass plant it’s been building in the state, according to Fortune.com. It could also hurt the state as it prepares to host the 2015 Super Bowl.
Many pro-business groups and even some small-business owners are actively protesting the bill. Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson put a sign in its window joking that it reserves “the right to refuse service to Arizona state legislators.”
“A lot of us remember in the ‘90s when Arizona didn’t recognize Martin Luther King Day, and lost out on a Super Bowl,” Rick Murray, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association told Fox Business. “We don’t want a repeat of that situation. From a perception standpoint, it is having a devastating effect. It puts Arizona in a bad light.”
Even the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, a Republican-leaning group, has vocally opposed it.
"After analyzing the bill, we are very concerned about the effect it could have on Arizona's economy," said a letter signed by the Chamber and other business groups to Governor Brewer. "We cannot support measures that could expose our businesses to litigation, nor do we want to send a message that our state is anything but an open and attractive place for visitors and the top talent that will be the cornerstone of our continued economic growth."
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