PHOENIX - In a decision watched across the nation, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday she has vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gays on religious grounds.
Brewer said she had made her decision after consulting with her lawyers and both opponents and supporters of Senate Bill 1062.
"My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona," the Republican governor told reporters. "I call them like I seem them despite the tears or the boos from the crowd." Supporters said the measure would protect religious freedom. But opponents said it would allow business owners to discriminate against gays, lesbians and others.
Brewer said she was supporter of religious liberty, but she questioned the need for such a law and expressed concern that it could be misapplied.
"Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona," Brewer said at an news conference. "I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences."
Brewer said she understood that many people are concerned by the changes taking part in society, but she said the measure was not the solution.
"I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve," she said. "It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want."Loud cheers erupted outside the Capitol building immediately after Brewer made her announcement.
The Republican-backed bill was passed by both chambers of the Legislature and landed on Brewer's desk on Monday. She had until Friday to make a decision on the bill. But with each passing day, the groundswell of criticism of the bill grew even more. The controversy was soon dominating social media and making national headlines.
Many Arizona business organizations lobbied against the proposed legislation, saying it would discourage national groups from hosting events there. On Wednesday, the Hispanic National Bar Association said it would move its 2015 national convention, which had been slated for Phoenix.
National corporations doing business in Arizona, including Apple, American Airlines and Marriott, called for a veto. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee warned that the bill, if it became law, could jeopardize plans for the state to host next year's Super Bowl.
Just hours before Brewer announced her decision, Major League Baseball issued a stern statement showing its disapproval of the measure.
"As the sport of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball and its 30 Clubs stand united behind the principles of respect, inclusion and acceptance. Those values are fundamental to our game's diverse players, employees and fans. We welcome individuals of different sexual orientations, races, religions, genders and national origins," the statement said.
"MLB has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation," it said.
The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, one of the many business groups that had opposed the measure, said it was pleased by the governor's veto.
"We want to continue to send the message that our great state is a welcoming place for all people to live, visit and do business," President and CEO Todd Sanders said in a statement.
But Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, who helped craft the bill, called it "a sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty."
Herrod told CBS News earlier that the measure was intended to protect religious freedom, not encourage discrimination.
"1062 is about one thing and one thing only: that Americans, Arizonans, should be free to live and work according to their faith," she said.Brewer's office was swamped with more than 20,000 calls and emails trying to sway her decision. Gay rights activists dropped off petitions against the bill with more than 60,000 signatures, all gathered in the last 24 hours, CBS affiliate KPHO said.