Under pressure from gay rights advocates, politicians and business interests, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer put an end to mounting speculation Wednesday evening when she announced that she vetoed the state's controversial religious freedom bill S.B. 1062.
At about 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday Gov. Brewer announced from her Twitter account: "Moments ago, I vetoed #SB1062." She included a photo of herself with the document sitting at her work desk.
In a statement on her decision at a press conference, Brewer apologized to supporters of the bill and pointed to her record on protecting religious freedoms in the state. She conceded that after careful evaluation of the bill and its implications it was the "RIGHT" thing to do.
"Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated," said Brewer.
"The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all of the arguments, I vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago," she explained.
Before that, she took the time to emphasize that the decision was not made lightly.
"As with every proposal that reaches my desk, I gave Senate Bill 1062 careful evaluation and deliberate consideration. I call them like I see them, despite the cheers or boos from the crowd," she noted.
"I took the time necessary to make the RIGHT decision. I met or spoke with my attorneys, lawmakers and citizens supporting and opposing this legislation."
The bill caused uproar as it was passed by the Senate and the House last week. Critics have blasted the bill, saying it gives businesses broad license to discriminate against gays. But a group of 11 law professors, both liberal and conservative, argued that the criticisms are misleading.
"[T]o be clear: SB1062 does not say that businesses can discriminate for religious reasons. It says that business people can assert a claim or defense under RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act), in any kind of case (discrimination cases are not even mentioned, although they would be included), that they have the burden of proving a substantial burden on a sincere religious practice, that the government or the person suing them has the burden of proof on compelling government interest, and that the state courts in Arizona make the final decision," the group said in a letter to Brewer.
The embattled governor empathized with supporters of the bill but acknowledged that a bill like S.B. 1062 was not a good way to address concerns about challenges to traditional family values.
"To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before," said Brewer.
"Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve," she continued.
"It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination. Going forward, let's turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among ALL Arizonans and Americans," she ended.