A proposed Arizona bill being termed by opponents as discrimination against the gay community has drawn criticism from a number of United States companies ranging from American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), AT&T (NYSE:T), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and Apple (NASDAQ:APPL).
Sitting on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s desk is a bill that, if she signs it into law, will allow business owners — as long as they assert their religious beliefs — to deny service to gay or lesbian customers. She is the same Republican governor who signed in April 2010 the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which made it a state misdemeanor for an immigrant to be in Arizona without carrying the registration documents required by federal law. If Brewer chooses to sign the bill into law, she will further cement the reputation of Arizona as a state that severely curtails personal freedoms — a reputation fostered by the anti-immigration law and a 1990s-era dispute over the celebration of the Martin Luther King holiday.
Arizona lawmakers sent Senate Bill 1062 to Brewer on Monday, and she has five days to sign it or veto it. If she chooses to do nothing, the bill will become law. As Brewer told CNN, she will make her decision after returning to Arizona from Washington, where she has been attending meetings of the National Governors Association. “I have to look at what it says and what the law says and take that information and do the right thing,” she told the news outlet. If she decides to sign the law, the state could face litigation and boycotts, which could hurt Arizona’s economy, its tourism industry, and its chances to host the 2014 Super Bowl. Simply the passage of the bill has prompted numerous tourists to cancel travel plans to the state. Arizona could little use a disruption of its economic recovery as the state was among the hardest hit by the bursting of the housing market bubble.
“There is genuine concern throughout the business community that this bill, if signed into law, would jeopardize all that has been accomplished so far,” American Airlines Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker wrote Monday in a letter to Brewer. “Wholly apart from the stated intent of this legislation, the reality is that it has the very real potential of slowing down the momentum we have achieved by reducing the desire of businesses to locate in Arizona and depressing the travel and tourism component of the economy if both convention traffic and individual tourists decide to go elsewhere.” He argued that, “Our economy thrives best when the doors of commerce are open to all.”
Apple — which is opening a new sapphire glass manufacturing plant this month in Mesa that will create as many as 2,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing, and construction — has spoken out against the proposed legislation as well. The company confirmed its position to CNBC Monday evening, because of the employment prospects and the additional new solar and geothermal power projects Apple’s renewable-energy facility will bring to the state. When announcing the project, Brewer wrote that company’s decision to build a facility in Arizona was partly prompted by its “friendly, pro-business climate.” She also noted that Apple, as “indisputably one of the world’s most innovative companies, [will] have an incredibly positive economic impact for Arizona.”
Alongside companies like Apple and Intel, the National Football League is also also paying attention the bill’s viability. “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the NFL said in a statement obtained by AppleInsider. “We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”
But Brewer’s voting record on LBGTQA rights issues is not strong, and social and religious conservatives are counting on her to adhere to her conservative principles and sign the bill. Already, she has ended domestic partner benefits for state employees, although in general she has remained “mostly silent on the issue of marriage equality and those types of things,” as Nathan Rhoton, vice president of Equality Arizona told, CNN.
The proposed legislation is controversial to say the least. The Republican-controlled state Senate approved the measure on February 21, and immediately businesses and gay rights advocates began lobbying the governor to veto the bill. Those who support Senate Bill 1062 argue that the law is not discriminatory but rather protects religious freedoms. Aaron Baer, a spokesperson for the Center for Arizona Policy, an organization that supports the measure, told Bloomberg that, “The attacks and the misinformation and outright lies have nothing to do with what Senate Bill 1062 is all about.” Rather, the passage of the bill would bring “Arizona in-line with what a majority of courts and circuit courts have ruled,” he added.
More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: