Why did Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer veto a ‘religious rights’ bill? The
gay rights movement’s allies now include Chambers of Commerce, major
businesses, and Republican lawmakers.
By Brad Knickerbocker
Mark this as the week when gay rights — including the push for
same-sex marriage — became clearly and perhaps irrevocably mainstream.
Forty-five years after the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village
protesting police raids on gay bars, then the first “Gay Pride”
marches a few years later — events which shocked many Americans more
used to homosexuality remaining in the closet — the movement’s newest
allies are strictly conventional: Chambers of Commerce, major business
groups, and Republican lawmakers.
That’s clearly behind Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of a “religious
rights” bill allowing commercial enterprises to refuse doing business
with gay individuals and couples, including those shopping for wedding
products and services. The message from opponents of the bill had been
heard loud and clear, and it wasn’t just gay rights groups.
As the Gannett news organization put it online:
“Apple, American Airlines, Marriott, and American Express strongly
opposed the legislation, saying it would be bad for business. The
Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee also called for a Brewer veto amid
reports the NFL was looking at other sites for its 2015 championship
“The state’s Republican U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake…
and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney also urged Brewer to nix
“Five GOP lawmakers who had supported the bill said they regretted
their votes because of the backlash and its potential impact on the
economy and the state’s reputation.”
In a letter to Brewer, the heads of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of
Commerce, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater
Phoenix Leadership, and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council wrote:
“We are troubled by any legislation that could be interpreted to
permit discrimination against a particular group of people in the
marketplace… The bill could also harm job creation efforts and our
ability to attract and retain talent.”
The outcome in Arizona showed “there are economic consequences to
discrimination,” Todd Sears, a former investment banker and the
founder of initiatives focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) equality in business, told Politico.
“You’re seeing corporations weighing in on the side of LGBT inclusion
and social justice in a way that you would not have seen 10, 15, 20
years ago,” Mr. Sears said. “This is about good business and
discrimination and helping our employees be better at their jobs.”
It was a message quickly heard and acted upon by officials in other
states considering similar “religious rights” legislation.
The president of the Kansas Senate announced this week that his
chamber would not take up a similar bill in the Kansas House, the
Washington Post reported, and Ohio legislators withdrew their measure.
Lawmakers in South Dakota and Utah tabled bills similar to Arizona’s,
and a bill in Georgia is unlikely to make it out of committee. The
sponsor of Tennessee’s bill withdrew his sponsorship in early
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas ruled against that state’s ban on
same-sex marriage. That makes six states where judges have so ruled.
(The others are Virginia, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Utah, and California.)
Today, same-sex marriages are legal in 17 states and the District of
Columbia. Given public opinion polls showing a majority of Americans —
including a large majority of younger voters — now approving gay
marriage, it seems likely that the number of such states will
While conservative churches and political organizations have fought
that trend, a new study of public attitudes over the past decade
indicates the challenges to that cause.
“In the decade since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize
same-sex marriage, Americans’ support for allowing gay and lesbian
people to legally wed has jumped 21 percentage points, from 32 percent
in 2003 to 53 percent in 2013, transforming the American religious
landscape,” the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reported
If anything, those who identify with a particular faith group are even
more inclined to approve of gay marriage, the report finds. In
addition to the 73 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans who
favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, majorities of
Jewish Americans (83 percent), white mainline Protestants (62
percent), white Catholics (58 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (56
percent) currently support same-sex marriage.
At the same time, churches which oppose gay marriage are finding a
negative impact regarding younger members.
“While many churches and people in the pews have been moving away from
their opposition to LGBT rights over the last decade, this new
research provides further evidence that negative teachings on this
issue have hurt churches’ ability to attract and retain young people,”
said PRRI chief executive officer Robert P. Jones. “Nearly one-third
of Millennials who left their childhood religion say unfavorable
church teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people played a
significant role in their decision to head for the exit.”