A trio of Arizona state senators urged Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a controversial “religious freedom” bill on Monday, just days after all three cast votes in favor of the proposal that opponents say will legalize discrimination.
Sens. Adam Driggs, Steve Pierce and Bob Worsley sent a letter to the governor explaining their “sincere intent” in voting for the bill to shield Arizonans’ religious liberties, but saying a swell of opposition to SB1062 had already caused a disastrous effect on the state.
The senators wrote that “the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance.” And because of the “immeasurable harm” to the state caused by this confusion, the trio of senators is urging Brewer to veto the measure.
“As Arizona leaders we feel it is important to loudly proclaim that we strongly condemn religious discrimination in any form,” the senators wrote.
Worsley, R-Mesa, was more vociferous in his opposition of SB1062, and said some Republican lawmakers only voted for the bill for the good of the party.
“I was uncomfortable, so was Steve (Pierce),” Worsley told the Arizona Capitol Times. “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.”
Laws already on the books would protect people exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs, and SB1062 was “a solution in search of a problem,” Worsley said.
There are “four or five” senators who would now vote differently on SB1062 if given the chance, Worsley said. The Mesa Republican sought out another vote by asking Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, to bring the measure back for reconsideration in the Senate.
Biggs refused, Worsley said, citing a Supreme Court decision requiring the Legislature to send bills approved by both chambers to the governor in a timely manner.
“He seemed to have a legal reasoning, but it seemed he didn’t want to do it as well,” Worsley said.
Biggs defended his decision on Monday afternoon, saying his hands were tied by the court’s ruling.
“The Supreme Court said once basically you get it out of both houses, you can’t not transmit it, you must transmit,” Biggs said Monday. “And not only must you transmit, you must do so within a reasonable time.”
The Senate transmitted the bill to the governor this afternoon.
Senate rules likely would have prohibited another vote on the measure anyway, as it was approved by the Senate on Feb. 19 and sent to the House, which approved the bill on Feb. 20 – though senators can suspend the rules at any time.
SB1062 was approved on a party line vote in the Senate. Only three GOP lawmakers voted against the bill in the House: Reps. Heather Carter, Kate Brophy McGee and Ethan Orr.