Amid mounting pressure from businesses, activists and US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer yesterday vetoed a so-called “religious freedom” bill that would’ve granted businesses broad license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
But Brewer’s veto doesn’t mark the end for this type of legislation, at least not officially.
Four states—Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma—are still considering bills that would allow businesses to deny services on religious grounds. And that’s not to mention the long list of states that considered, but recently rejected, such bills. Before Brewer’s veto, lawmakers had already killed broad “religious freedom” bills in Idaho, Indiana, Maine and Ohio. More blatantly discriminatory versions in Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee, which specifically targeted LGBTQ individuals, died this month.
Rose Saxe, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, said the bills represent a shifting strategy, a “plan b,” among conservative evangelical groups who recognize they’re on the losing side of the same-sex marriage battle. If the national opposition to Arizona’s bill, uniting John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Apple, is any indication, the evangelicals may already be losing this one too. Some lawmakers who voted for “religious freedom” bills are already backtracking on their support.
“It’s so tainted now, it needs to go away,” said Kansas Representative Scott Schwab (R-Olathe), regarding talks by the state’s legislature to rework and reintroduce its “religious freedom bill.” Schwab voted for the bill, but now says he regrets it.