/ Modified feb 25, 2014 4:27 p.m.

Pressure Builds on Brewer to Veto Religious Freedom Bill

Her top political adviser joins long bipartisan list of politicians, businesses, rights groups in calling for rejection.



Pressure grew Tuesday on Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, including from her top political adviser, Chuck Coughlin.

The legislation, SB 1062, would allow businesses to assert their "sincerely held religious beliefs" when refusing service to gay, lesbian and transgender people, among others.

Business leaders, Democratic and Republican politicians and civil rights advocates joined a growing chorus of Arizonans calling for a veto. The Center for Arizona Policy, which helped draft the legislation, continued calling on the governor to sign it.

The man who co-managed Brewer's 2010 election campaign told the Phoenix Business Journal that he advised the governor to reject the legislation.

“I’ve encouraged her to veto the bill,” Coughlin said. He is president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants in Phoenix and serves as senior political adviser to Brewer.

Arizona U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake asked Brewer to veto the bill along with all but one Republican gubernatorial candidate, Al Melvin.

All 17 Senate Republicans voted for the bill last week, while all 13 Democrats opposed it.

Monday three Republican senators - Steve Pierce, Bob Worsley and Adam Driggs - said they wanted to reverse their positions and urged Brewer to veto the bill.

Brewer said Tuesday she had yet to read the legislation and would do so as soon as she arrived back in Arizona late in the day. She was in Washington, D.C., for meetings with other governors.

“I’m pro-business and that is what is turning our economy around, so I appreciate their (business leaders) input as I appreciate the other side,” she told CNN. “I can assure you as always I would do the right thing for the state of Arizona.

Arizona’s biggest business advocacy groups have called for Brewer to veto the bill because it could hurt tourism and make it hard to recruit business and open the door to lawsuits against businesses.

Former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, who is gay, called SB 1062 an “unnecessary piece of legislation that threatens to give Arizona another black eye like we had once before on the immigration issue and we just don’t need one right now.”

He pointed out that American Airlines, Apple and Marriott urged a veto, “saying not only do we think this is wrong that is not needed and that it’s morally wrong but it’s going to harm Arizona and I think the governor will want to listen to those messages."

Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod, in a statement on her organization's website, urged the governor to “send a clear message to the country that in Arizona, everyone, regardless of their faith, will be protected,” by signing the bill.

“The attacks on SB 1062 show politics at its absolute worse. They represent precisely why so many people are sick of the modern political debate,” Herrod wrote. “It’s a shame we even need a bill like this in America, but growing hostility against freedom in our nation, and the increasing use of government to threaten and punish its own citizens, has made it necessary."

In Tucson, the gay and lesbian advocacy group Wingspan was organizing daily protests and “the protests will not stop until there is a veto,” said Carol Grimsby, Wingspan’s director.

“For the LGBTQ community, their fears, concerns and worries are the negative light that this type of legislation is casting on them,” Grimsby said. “It places LGBTQ community members in a place where they are not allowed to live with dignity.”

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