Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Wednesday vetoed legislation critics said would give businesses carte blanche to discriminate against gays and lesbians. She did this at the urging of many notable conservatives, the state’s Republican senators and a wide swath of its business establishment. Brewer, whatever her motive, acted wisely. The perception was the Arizona law enlisted religion as a thin cover for bigotry. Whatever the law would really do, it was not worth suffering that widespread, profoundly negative public judgment. The veto avoids at least some repercussions from the belief that Arizona allows hatred to hide behind a convenient cloak of faith.
I would have vetoed the bill, SB 1062, although read it and the source of furor is a little misty. According to University of Virginia law professor Doug Laycock, writing in the Volokh Conspiracy blog, “It would have provided that people are covered when state or local government requires them to violate their religion in the conduct of their business, and that people are covered when sued by a private citizen invoking state or local law to demand that they violate their religion.” Business people could assert the claim if sued. They would have to prove a substantial burden on sincerely held beliefs. Government or plaintiff would have to prove “a compelling government interest.” The court would decide which side prevails.