Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to speak about controversial bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will make a statement Wednesday evening about a controversial piece of legislation that would give more protection to businesses who cite religious beliefs in refusing to serve gays and others, she announced.

The move comes after an intense national outcry by the gay community, its supporters, business owners and Arizona political leaders, urging the governor to veto SB 1062.

Critics describe the bill as anti-gay, unconstitutional and divisive. It passed the Republican-controlled Legislature last week, largely on a party-line vote.

Proponents of SB 1062 say the bill is being misrepresented. They emphasized that it was not a discriminatory bill and was intended to protect religious freedom. They note that state law already permits businesses to refuse to serve gays and others, and this bill would merely strengthen that right.

The bill was met with quick and widespread criticism — prompting three Republicans who had voted for it to reverse course and urge a veto.

Some foes of the legislation have threatened to boycott Arizona if the bill becomes law, and a national group of Latino lawyers announced Wednesday that it had pulled out of hosting a conference in Phoenix.

The possibility of boycotts has worried some companies and business organizations, which have also urged Brewer to veto the bill. Apple, American Airlines, Marriott and Delta Air Lines are among them.

The Arizona Super Bowl Committee also came out against the bill, saying it would "deal a significant blow" to the state's economy. Arizona is scheduled to host the 2015 Super Bowl.

Republican leaders including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Arizona's U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, also have urged a veto.

Technically, the bill would expand the definition of the free exercise of religion, allowing a faithful person to adhere to his or her beliefs in practice. It would also expand the definition of "person" to include any business, association and corporation.

Arizona's bill is similar to proposals in other states, including ones that failed in Kansas and Idaho. Another is under consideration in Utah.

The legislation comes as support for same-sex marriage is gaining momentum in the courts, and on the heels of two cases in which state courts sided with gay couples in wedding-related lawsuits.

In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to photograph their commitment ceremony. And in Colorado, a state judge ruled against a baker who had refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple.

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