Brewer vetoes S.B. 1062

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed Arizona S.B. 1062, legislation that I wrote about here and here. Brewer claimed that S.B. 1062 “does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona” and that it was “broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”

Her first claim makes little sense. Arizona already has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. S.B. 1062 amends the Act to address issues that have come up in litigation of similar acts. The existence of the Arizona RFRA shows that issues arising under it are of concern to religious liberty in Arizona. The existence of litigation in other states that raises questions applicable to Arizona’s RFRA demonstrates the existence of a “specific or present concern” to which the modification is addressed.

It’s possible that Brewer’s second claim — that the amendment is too broad and could result in unintended and negative consequences — is valid. I allowed for that possibility in my original post. At least nine of the eleven religious liberty scholars who signed the letter to Brewer quoted here don’t see it that way. However, Walter Olson finds plausibility in the concern.

Unfortunately, Gov. Brewer apparently declined to do explain her basis for claiming that the legislation is overbroad. Arizona legislators should seek an explanation and craft a better-worded bill.

Unfortunately, Brewer almost certainly won’t sign such legislation. That’s because her real concern is with the avoiding the wrath of businesses that wish to avoid the wrath of gay activists.

It doesn’t help that the mainstream media proved incapable of accurate reporting on this story. Note, for example, the New York Times’ story reporting Brewer’s veto. It states that Brewer “vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gay men, lesbians and other people on religious grounds.”

For the reasons we have discussed, this “overbroad” description of the legislation constitutes journalistic malpractice.

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