WASHINGTON — Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a proposed state law that would have allowed business owners with strong religious beliefs to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. The measure was rejected after sparking a national debate over religious freedom and gay rights.
Cheers erupted outside state capitol building after the governor's veto. Since the bill's passage there had been growing opposition to it from major corporations, politicians in Washington, and state lawmakers in her own party.
At a news conference, Brewer called the bill unnecessary legislation that would hurt the state. "The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination."
Gay Rights activists applauded the governor's action, calling the bill blatantly discriminatory and embarrassing to the state.
"The people of Arizona have spoken and they were urging a veto," said one woman.
Supporters of the legislation say it was about protecting people's right to exercise religion freely. The bill was promoted by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes gay marriage. Its president, Cathi Herrod, helped write the legislation known as SB 1062.
"1062 is about one thing and one thing only, that Americans and Arizonian should be free to live and work according to their faith," said Herrod.
But Arizona Senator John McCain opposed the bill telling VOA the law should have been rejected. "I just do not think it is necessary and I think it is wrong. I am against it in principle. We certainly want to make sure that we do nothing that either is real or perceived discrimination."
Several major U.S. companies doing business in Arizona -- like Apple, American Airlines, and Marriott -- called for the bill's rejection, fearing it would hurt business.
The professional U.S. National Football League local organizing committee also said if the law was approved, it could have jeopardized plans for the state to host the Super Bowl next year.
Proponents of the legislation say it was designed to protect businesses like bakeries, flower shops and wedding photographers, who may have objections to same sex marriage. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of state attorney generals he opposes laws influenced by politics.
"I believe we must be suspicious of legal classifications base solely on sexual orientation and we must endeavor in all our efforts to uphold and advance the values that once led our fore bearers to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity," said Holder.
Political analysts say the controversy surrounding the legislation illustrates the state's residents are often more mainstream than its more conservative elected officials.