Anti-gay law vetoed after pressure from business

Dan Weissmann Feb 26, 2014

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed a controversial bill that would have effectively allowed businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Proponents of the legislation, passed by the Arizona legislature, cited “religious freedom.” The state’s business community urged Brewer to veto it, as did big companies and Republican politicians from around the country.

A lot of the companies that wrote to Brewer opposing the bill were from the travel industry: American Airlines. Delta. Marriott Hotels.

Some tweeted.

Tourism is a big industry in Arizona. Just ask Garrick Taylor, senior vice president for government relations and communications at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re speaking at the end of February, when a polar vortex has gripped much of the country,” he says. “That’s not the case here in Arizona. Temps are in the 70s. Spring training baseball is about to get rolling. We’re in the high season.”

A travel industry association estimates the tourism sector is worth 150,000 jobs — one out of every 13 jobs in the state. 

Also thought to be considering a pullout if the governor hadn’t vetoed the bill: The NFL.

Next year’s Super Bowl is in Phoenix. In the early 1990s, the NFL pulled the Super Bowl from Arizona, in response to the state’s refusal to recognize the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Hosting the Super Bowl is thought to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars for a city — but losing it could have cost a lot more.

That’s because potential conference organizers and other travelers might have followed the NFL’s lead, says Ken Shropshire, who runs the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.

“If the NFL says it’s not good enough for them,” Shropshire says, “then why in the world should [fans and other businesses] contemplate going to a place like that?”

Also on-record opposing the now-vetoed law: Tech companies like Apple and Intel.

Barry Broome is president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.  His job is to get companies to open up shop there. He says this doesn’t help.

“Really the name of the game for major technology employers is to be able to attract the millennials,” says Broome. “I think the millennial workforce culture wants diverse, open, positive work environments that are tolerant.”

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