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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer expected to veto 'religious freedom' bill

By Dana Bash, CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bill would allow business owners to deny service to gay and lesbians based on religious objections
  • Some lawmakers who know Gov. Jan Brewer believe she'll reject the measure
  • Businesses pressure her to reject the bill pushed by group opposed to abortion, same-sex marriage

(CNN) -- All signs indicate Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will likely veto politically-charged legislation that supporters say promotes religious freedom and opponents contend discriminates against gays and lesbians.

Brewer did not signal her intention either way in an exclusive interview with CNN on Monday at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington.

"I can assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the state of Arizona," she said.

But some Arizona Republicans who know her well say they are confident those comments mean Brewer will almost surely reject the bill that is generating nationwide controversy.

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The Republican-led measure would allow Arizona business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers as long as they assert their religious beliefs.

Brewer is scheduled to return to Arizona on Tuesday, and a source tells CNN those familiar with her thinking say she will likely spend at least one full business day in the state before acting.

"I'm going to go home, and when I receive the bill, I'm going to read it and I'm going to be briefed on it. We have been following it. And I will make my decision in the near future," Brewer told CNN.

She has until Saturday to sign or veto the bill. If she does nothing, it automatically becomes law.

Arizona GOP sources say Brewer considers herself a pro-business governor -- someone who above all else wants to protect and promote Arizona's economic interests.

They say she knows full well there will be economic consequences for the state if it has a law on the books perceived to effectively codify discrimination.

"I have a history of deliberating and having an open dialogue on bills that are controversial, to listen to both sides of those issues, and I welcome the input, and information that they can provide to me. And certainly I am pro-business, and that is what's turning our economy around, so I appreciate their input, as I appreciate the other side," Brewer said.

Business leaders in Arizona and around the country, including the chief executive of American Airlines, have urged Brewer publicly and privately to veto the bill.

Approval also is likely to trigger lawsuits.

The bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

The group argues the proposal protects people against increasingly activist federal courts.

Brewer vetoed a similar bill last year, arguing that the state legislature should focus on more pressing issues, such as a Medicaid expansion plan she was promoting.

Sources say she is concerned about this bill taking away from other issues she is now pressing, such as overhauling Arizona's child protective services system.

Freedom or oppression? That's the question for Arizona's SB1062

CNN's Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.

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