Proponents say controversial Arizona bill is about protecting religious freedom

PHOENIX - Rarely has an impending decision by a state governor gotten so much national attention.

Arizona's Jan Brewer is under tremendous pressure from all over America from those who want her to veto a controversial bill and those who want her to sign it.

The bill would allow a business to deny service to someone on religious grounds.

Supporters say it's about protecting religious freedom.

Opponents say it is about discriminating against gays and lesbians, and others as well.

In Phoenix, the governor has been meeting with people on both sides of the issue. Her office was swamped with more than 20,000 calls and emails trying to sway her decision on Senate Bill 1062.

Fears that the controversy could affect tourism were realized Wednesday when 2,000 Hispanic lawyers canceled their 2015 national convention here.

SB 1062 offers legal protection for individuals or corporations refusing to do something they claim offends their religious beliefs. Cathi Herod's group, the Center for Arizona Policy, was one of the architects of the bill.

CBS News asked Herrod if the bill is this an effort to protect all religious freedom or is this an effort to protect a fundamentalist Christian agenda.

"1062 is an effort to protect people of all faith," Herrod answered.

So would SB 1062 protect a Muslim wedding photographer who does not want to photograph a Jewish wedding?

"Yes," said Herrod.

The bill's language is broader than other religious freedom laws proposed in other states. Those laws offered a shield to businesses or individuals who cited religious beliefs as a reason to refuse services to same-sex couples.

Brewer's Choice

What should Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer do with the gay-business law?

Legal guidance in other states, including Arizona, was provided by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

"Religious liberty, when properly exercised and protected, is good for everyone. That's why this is a good law," said Doug Napier, with the Alliance Defending Freedom.

According to tax documents, the Alliance Defending Freedom spent $40 million in 2012 to promote conservative Christian values, fund lawsuits and develop legislation to stop abortion and same-sex marriage.

"There is nothing in this bill that says anything about sexual orientation or people who identify as homosexual," said Napier. "That is a smokescreen, it's a distraction from what the bill is."

But lawyers with the group have been outspoken about their views on homosexuality. Speaking in Illinois last year, one of the group's top attorneys said: "By being quiet about homosexuality, you may be condemning some of your people to hell."

Brewer has until Saturday to act on the bill. She's expected to make a decision by Friday, when she attends a gathering of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Many of its members have been outspoken in their opposition to this legislation.

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