How Apple, the NFL and other big businesses helped kill the Arizona bill

February 27, 2014

Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer at a news conference announcing she had vetoed SB1062. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Shortly after Arizona lawmakers passed legislation last week that would have let businesses deny service to gay customers, the outcry began. Supporters praised it as a necessary protection for religious freedoms, while opponents denounced it as state-supported discrimination.

Among the most vocal opponents: Big businesses, with big-time companies like Apple and Marriott joining groups around the state in asking Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to veto it.

Brewer vetoed the bill on Wednesday, saying it “could result in unintended and negative consequences.” But the backlash to the bill may also have consequences, particularly for the other states where legislators have discussed such laws.

“I believe that any state, they should look very closely at Arizona,” Glenn Hamer, president and chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said on Thursday. “My guess is that after what has happened here, I’d be very surprised if this type of bill could pass in any state in the country.”

It’s worth looking at why exactly all of these businesses were so vocal in their opposition to the Arizona bill.

Business groups that spoke out against it quickly identified a host of problems, which is why “virtually every major business group in Arizona” opposed it, Hamer said.

It would have harmed Arizona’s reputation, hindering the state’s massive tourism industry, he said. (The state has some experience with boycotts badly hurting tourism.) The bill would have also made it difficult to attract new talent to the state and weakened anti-discrimination laws in places like Phoenix and Tuscon.

“When you have a case where the economic consequences can be severe, and there’s no specific Arizona problem identified…it’s not terribly difficult to come out with a decision,” he said.

The Arizona chamber called for a veto, as did the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and other groups in the state. They were joined by Apple (which is opening a manufacturing plant in Mesa), Marriott (which has 85 hotels in the state), Delta, American Airlines (Doug Parker, the company’s chief executive, was head of US Airways before that airline merged with American) and other groups.

“They didn’t want to be viewed as not being open and ready to do business with everyone,” said Dick Castner, western regional director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

And looming over all of this was next year’s Super Bowl, set to be played in Glendale, Ariz. “We do not support this legislation,” the host committee said in a statement earlier this week, worrying about how the bill could blunt the game’s impact on the state economy. The NFL said it was “following the issue.”

All of which raised a specter unique to Arizona. The NFL took the 1993 Super Bowl away from Arizona due to the state’s refusal to establish a holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The stated concern was that if this new bill became a law, boycotts would affect the game and the surrounding events; the underlying worry was that the NFL could again take a Super Bowl away from the state due to a controversy.

With the Arizona law scuttled, attention turns to other states that have considered similar measures. But there’s something crucial to note here: Not all of the opponents were simply focused on Arizona. Delta said in its statement that the airline “strongly opposes” measures in Arizona, Georgia and other states.

There were also misgivings among people who had initially supported the bill, with three Republican state senators who voted for it turning around and calling for a veto.

“There were some second thoughts among even those who voted for it,” Castner said. “My guess is that same feeling may be going through the minds of folks who have at least up until now supported these types of measures in other states.”

Hamer also has this simple advice for any other states considering such a bill: “Don’t do it.”

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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