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How would you govern? Candidates weigh in on controversial bill

Mar 1, 2014

Arizona Republic

Hmmm ... Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is against religious discrimination, but him and his fellow members of the Mesa City Council have shovelled millions of tax dollars, in violation of the Arizona Constitution to religious colleges in Downtown Mesa.

Feb 23, 2014 4:22 PM A GANNETT COMPANY

How would you govern? Candidates weigh in on controversial bill

The Republic | Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:42 PM

Not since the Legislature passed tough immigration-enforcement legislation in 2010 has a bill stirred as much controversy as Senate Bill 1062, which would expand religious protections in state law in a way critics claim would be discriminatory against gays and lesbians.

As part of The Arizona Republic’s coverage of the 2014 elections, gubernatorial candidates are being asked their positions on key issues. Here's what they had to say about SB 1062.

Candidates James Draper, Geoffrey Jacobs, Alice Lukasik, John Mealer, Andrew Thomas, state Sen. Rick Murphy and Giuliano Selna did not respond to The Republic’s request. Ronald Cavanaugh could not be reached.

Brewer, a Republican, has not said whether she intends to challenge the state's rules and seek another term in office. She typically does not comment on legislation before it reaches her desk.

But on Friday she told CNN that, "it's a very controversial piece of legislation. We know that and we know that its failed in a lot of states across the country. I have not been in town currently, I have been reading about it on the internet, and I will make my decision sometime, probably by next Friday....It's very controversial, so I've got to get my hands around it."

Bennett, a Republican, responded:

“SB 1062 is an unnecessary measure to protect a God-given right already assured by the Constitution. I strongly support religious freedom, but divisive measures such as these distract us from the most important challenges facing Arizona: jobs and economic development.” Ducey, a Republican, responded:

“The religious-liberty issues that SB 1062 attempts to address are legitimate ones, and I believe there is a way to draft language that would address the concerns of everyone involved and avoid the acrimony and notoriety that have accompanied this bill’s passage.

"As governor, I would veto SB 1062 but would then bring together all the interested parties before this legislative session adjourns to forge consensus on acceptable language protecting religious liberty. I believe everyone involved are all people of good will, and I believe we can find common ground that will serve Arizona well.”

DuVal, a Democrat, said:

“If I were governor, I wouldn’t have waited for this bill to get to my desk. I would have stopped it before it passed. I would have made it very clear to the legislature that they shouldn't bother sending me this legislation. This bill won’t solve any of the problems facing Arizona families; it won’t create jobs or improve education. In fact, it will be a job killer. It’s going to hurt our businesses and hurt our state’s reputation across the country -- it’s just plain wrong.

“I urge Governor Brewer to consider the opinions of Arizonans such as Senator John McCain, who has said he wouldn’t support SB 1062, and organizations such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, which called this bill ‘anti-business.’"

“Now is the time for the Republican candidates for Governor - Doug Ducey, Ken Bennett, Scott Smith and Christine Jones - to show some spine: Will they stand up against legalized discrimination or bow down to Cathi Herrod? Anyone who wants to lead the State of Arizona ought to speak clearly and honestly about where they stand on legalized discrimination. November is coming.”

Barry Hess, a libetarian, responded:

"No (I would not sign it.) While all individuals, and non-government businesses retain an absolute right to refuse to do business with anyone (including government), for any reason; proposing a law to that effect is not only redundant, but unnecessarily incites argument. Worse yet, it is an invitation and encouragement for businesses to discriminate against a specific group, for purely political reasons.

The ‘bread and butter’ for the kind of politicians who would propose such legislation is the division of the masses. They seek only to divide us (the American People) up into groups, pit them against one another, and then offer to referee.

“I happen to be of the opinion that here in America (Arizona included), all individuals are absolutely equal, without regard to the usual attempts to divide us based on spiritual beliefs, sex, sexual preferences, skin color, mental capabilities, or national or ethnic origins. Our strength as a nation depends only upon our common beliefs as a free people and the protection of our inherent, God-given rights as individuals, and as governor, I intend to uphold those beliefs without exception.”

Jones, a Republican, said:

“I support protecting the First Amendment and believe that government must not dictate to private business owners or professionals that they must violate their long-held religious convictions. To the extent SB 1062 strives to affirm that fundamental truth, I agree.

"However, I strongly urge the state legislature, and its leadership, to focus its time and energy on policy development that will help stimulate Arizona's economy, lay a foundation for job creation, and improve Arizona's reputation on the national and international stage. SB 1062 will simply be used to caricature our state and hurt our economic growth and should, for that reason, be withdrawn.”

Melvin, a Republican, responded:

“I voted for SB 1062 yesterday because it is a religious freedom issue. If I was Gov of Arizona, I would sign the bill into law. We must protect freedom of religion in Arizona and throughout the USA. People should be protected from being forced to do things against their religious beliefs, including participating in preparations involving same sex marriages.

"The left and the Democrat party are waging a frontal assault on the conservative pillars of American society including our main line churches, traditional marriage as defined as being between one man and one woman, getting rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the US Military, forcing the issue of gay leaders in the Boy Scouts of America, etc.”

Molina, a Republican, said:

“Sad to see SB 1062, justifying individuals and business to not be forced to do something or provide a service because of their ‘religious beliefs.’ This is a slippery slope because it opens the door to discrimination especially against our LGBT community.

“‘Religious beliefs’ is a two edged sword. It has been used in history to oppress, conquer and annihilate certain groups of people all in the name of ‘religious beliefs.’ But ‘religious beliefs’ have also brought healing, comfort and peace to communities and people of diverse backgrounds and persuasions.

“I believe that legislation like SB 1062 are brought by people and religious organizations who like Samuel Adams portrays as humans who are ‘governed more by feelings than by reason.’

“I would like to see us as a state that looks beyond feelings and moves on reason to create a state that provides a safe haven for all people, regardless of beliefs and lifestyle ...

“As Governor for this great state of Arizona I would veto SB 1062.”

Smith, a Republican, said:

“As a Christian conservative, I am troubled that religious rights are being trampled as part of the current debate on changes in our society. I understand why some might believe that enacting some sort of legal protection might be warranted. But I am also a member of a church that, because of the way it worshipped God, has experienced severe persecution sanctioned by government.

“I firmly believe that discrimination or bigotry in any form is unacceptable. I am very concerned that SB 1062 carries the real potential for both institutionalizing discrimination and creating unintended consequences that could impact our most basic rights, including freedom of religion.

“SB 1062 could also negatively impact Arizona’s business environment at a time when our economy and reputation are still fragile. Arizona has real problems that demand real solutions. We should concentrate our attention and efforts on issues that have the most significant real impact on Arizonans. For these reasons, I would veto SB 1062.”

Chip Howard, an independent, responded:

“My reluctance about SB 1062 is twofold;

“1. Though I believe that it is well-intended and probably well-written, I fear that it has potential to be problematic due to unintended consequences not foreseen by the authors. Activists on both sides of the issue would then have a vehicle for further confrontation and abuse.

“2. Just like the experience with SB 1070, opportunists will, with the assistance of a very compliant media, portray the bill as something sinister that is not. That mis-information, which will be prevalent, will be used to unfairly and inaccurately portray an adverse image of our State and accentuate the divisions among us.

“As Governor, though I respect the motives of the Bill’s authors, I would privately ask that they discontinue pursuit and focus on other issues. But, the Legislators are representatives of the people and must, as such, be respected by the Governor. If they presented the bill and I could be absolutely convinced that there would be no adverse consequences that would infringe upon the rights of the LGBT community, or any group for that matter, I would sign it. But again, we have other serious problems that we need to be focusing on.”