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Rob’s Take 20: Gov. Jan Brewer, please veto SB 1062

It’s being called the Right to Refuse Service bill.

The law is meant to protect business owners from lawsuits if they refuse service to people based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” but it’s so much more than just that.

The headline CNN ran on Friday afternoon said “Arizona may let businesses ban gays.” So the impression Arizona lawmakers create is of a state that doesn’t tolerate gays, when just a couple of years ago Arizona was labeled the anti-Hispanic state (see SB 1070 and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling lawsuit). That’s the bigger problem with SB 1062 and that’s why Gov. Jan Brewer should veto it.

Friday on the Rob and Karie Show, Kristen Jarnagin, senior vice president of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, said her office has already received calls from people canceling their spring training trips here because of this bill, which is still one step away from becoming law. Brewer has until Friday to either sign it or veto it.

Jarnagin added Arizona’s economy is reliant on tourism. It is a $19.3 billion industry that accounts for 200,000 jobs. Giving people a reason not to come here isn’t in Arizona’s best interests. Lawmakers are supposed to protect those interests.

Sure, business owners deserve rights and protections. This is the wrong way to go about it.

First, because the bill only protects business owners rights if they hold “sincerely held religious beliefs.” That is about as subjective as it gets because beliefs and where they come from are nearly impossible to disprove. This could turn Arizona’s courts into religious testing grounds where a business owner might have to take a religion test, submit their Church attendance history or Bible readings in order to prove whether or not the beliefs are “sincere.”

Secondly, why are “religious” beliefs given extra protection over non-religious beliefs? The way SB 1062 reads allows only religious business owners to refuse service to anyone. That, in and of itself, is discrimination.

Thirdly, there is no great need for this bill. There are no pending lawsuits arguing business discrimination in Arizona. The New Mexico lawsuit that spurred this law was first filed back in 2006. Last year, after seven years bouncing around courts, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in favor of a gay couple who sued a wedding photographer saying refusing service to them based on their sexuality “is no different than refusing to photograph a wedding between people of different races.”

So this bill, SB1062, may not be Constitutional even if it becomes law in Arizona. Just because the legislature passed it and Brewer may sign does not mean it won’t stand up to Constitutional muster. The fight over this bill could potentially cost the state millions of dollars.

The final reason Brewer should veto this bill is because the architects of it are trying to score political points with their constituency. That’s the motivation behind SB 1062. Arizona Republicans are simply sending the message that they are fighting for the rights of the religious.

No, they are actually just pandering to get their votes. And they’re doing it again at the expense of Arizona’s reputation.