Senators ask Brewer to veto bill ‘mischaracterized by its opponents’

Controversy over SB 1062 could have a profound economic effect on Arizona if people decide to boycott Super Bowl XLIX in 2015
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adam driggs, steve pierce, bb worsleyPHOENIX – After Senate Bill 1062 was passed by the legislature and forwarded to Gov. Jan Brewer for her signature, to modify the definition of “exercise of religion,” senators Adam Driggs, R-Dist. 28; Steve Pierce, R-Dist. 1; and Bob Worsley, R-Dist. 25, each of whom voted in favor of the bill, sent Brewer a letter on Monday asking her to veto the bill.

Although Worsley, regarding their votes in favor of the bill, was quoted in Arizona Capitol Times as saying “I was uncomfortable, so was Steve. And we just felt that it was important to keep the caucus together this early in the session. And it was a mistake. We’re going on record that we made a mistake,” that is not what their letter to Brewer indicates.

Their letter states, “While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.

“As Arizona leaders we feel it is important to loudly proclaim that we strongly condemn discrimination in any form.”

Concluding, “We must send a clear message that Arizona is a state that values religious tolerance and protects and values each individual’s ability to follow the dictates of their own conscience,” they asked Brewer to veto the bill.

The bill, if signed into law, would modify the definition of “exercise of religion” and allows a person to assert a free exercise claim or defense in a judicial proceeding regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.

SB 1062 includes expanding the definition of “exercise of religion” to specifically include both the practice and observance of religion.

To assert a violation of their religious exercise, a person must demonstrate all of the following:
   1. That the person’s action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief;
   2. That the religious belief is sincerely held; and
   3. That the state action substantially burdens the exercise of religious belief.

SB 1062 allows a person asserting a claim or defense that their religious exercise is burdened to receive injective and declaratory relief and specifies that a free exercise of religion claim or defense may be asserted in a judicial proceeding regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceedings.

The bill was approved by the Senate on Feb. 19, approved by the House of Representatives on Feb. 20 and transmitted to the governor on Feb. 21.

Although three votes are enough for a reconsideration vote, Senate President Andy Biggs declined, citing a Supreme Court ruling requiring the legislature to send bills to the governor in a timely manner after being approved by both chambers.

Controversy over the bill, which opponents have characterized as anti-gay, could have profound economic effects on Arizona’s business community, especially in light of Super Bowl XLIX and other major events being hosted in Arizona in 2015, if people decide to boycott the state due to its passage.

Brewer has five days during which she may choose to sign the bill into law, do nothing and let it become law on its own, or veto the bill.

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