Arizona Religious Freedom Bill: Will it Pass? Does it Encourage Anti-Gay Discrimination?

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) faces a pressing decision about a bill on her desk that has prompted a national debate over religious and gay rights.

Arizona's State Legislature passed a bill last week allowing businesses whose owners cite sincerely held religious beliefs to deny service to gays.

It allows any business, church or person to cite this new law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

Late Tuesday night, Brewer wasn't tipping her hand. The Governor Tweeted:

"I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the State of Arizona."

The legislation has caused a national uproar, debate and controversy.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans, have publicly stated their opposition, joining the state's Democratic House members.

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was the latest prominent voice to weigh in on the national discussion, urging Brewer to veto the bill.

There is widespread speculation that Brewer will veto the bill, but she has not said how she'll act, as is her longtime practice with pending legislation.

Brewer will likely spend the next day or more pondering Senate Bill 1062 before deciding whether to sign it into law or kill the legislation by vetoing it.

Some state Republican senators who pushed the bill through the Legislature are now calling for a veto as well, but they cite "inaccurate" media coverage.

They argue the bill is designed only to protect business owners with strong religious beliefs from discrimination lawsuits that have happened in other states.

Some blame the Internet for blowing the law out of proportion.

Democrats say that argument doesn't wash and call SB 1062 "toxic" legislation that allows discrimination. They said they warned Republicans who voted for this.

"We brought this to their attention five weeks ago," said Sen. Steve Gallardo, Democrat of Phoenix. "We said this is exactly what is going to happen."

"You have a bill here that's so toxic it's going to divide this Legislature. It's going to be polarizing the entire state. And that's exactly what happened."

The bill, which passed narrowly enough that a veto from Brewer would doom it, pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group.

The organization also opposes abortion and gay marriage.

The group says the proposal is not discriminatory, but simply clarifies existing state law and is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts.

The center's president, Cathi Herrod, has been deriding what she called "fear-mongering" from the measure's opponents, calling out the "political tactic."

Just the same, "it's working," she said. "Throw out the threat of a boycott to attempt to defeat a bill, and you might just be able to be successful."

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@ (((@)))++JOY

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