Why Jan Brewer Will Veto Arizona’s Antigay Bill

The Republican governor’s decision is politically calculated and underscores the country’s sizable shift on gay-rights issues. And we’ve seen this from her before.

Dustin Volz
Feb. 25, 2014, 8:29 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4759) }}

Four years ago, it was il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion. Today, it’s gay rights.

She has sur­prised us be­fore, but Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brew­er is likely go­ing to veto the state’s con­tro­ver­sial bill that would let busi­nesses re­fuse ser­vice to gay and les­bi­an cus­tom­ers on re­li­gious grounds, a move that again shows how much na­tion­al polit­ics have moved on so­cial is­sues.

The de­term­in­a­tion, first re­por­ted Tues­day by NBC News, will bol­ster the un­con­ven­tion­al gov­ernor’s im­age as a politi­cian es­cap­ing neat, par­tis­an defin­i­tions. But it also re­af­firms her status as a states­wo­man keenly aware of the polit­ics of the mo­ment, both in her state and around the coun­try.

It seems like a life­time ago, but Ari­zona, un­der Brew­er’s stew­ard­ship, be­came the poster child for the “self-de­port­a­tion” move­ment in 2010, when the Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor chose to sign a meas­ure that made it a state crime to be in the state il­leg­ally. The move cast Ari­zona as a cru­cible of hate in the eyes of many and cost its state eco­nomy an es­tim­ated $140 mil­lion dol­lars in lost rev­en­ue.

But the de­cision un­ques­tion­ably helped win reelec­tion for Brew­er, who had been in­stalled as gov­ernor just 15 months earli­er after Janet Na­pol­it­ano resigned to head the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment. And des­pite a cres­cendo of protests across the coun­try, oth­er states, in­clud­ing Alabama, Geor­gia, In­di­ana, South Car­o­lina, and Utah, passed sim­il­ar laws in the fol­low­ing year. (The Su­preme Court struck down key sec­tions of Ari­zona’s law in 2012.)

Now, Brew­er is again poised to cap­it­al­ize on the polit­ic­al zeit­geist of the coun­try. In beat­ing down a bill blas­ted by even many fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans as dis­crim­in­at­ory, Brew­er’s de­cision fol­lows a string of court de­cisions, le­gis­lat­ive ef­forts, and ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions that have widened the rights of same-sex couples, who now qual­i­fy for full mar­riage rights in 17 states as well as in the eyes of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

Bey­ond the polit­ic­al cal­cu­la­tions, Brew­er, who has un­til Sat­urday to make a de­cision on the bill, has also proved she is not nearly as con­ser­vat­ive as her state Le­gis­lature, or her com­mon ca­ri­ca­tures, would lead us to be­lieve. She has fre­quently con­foun­ded her own party by stand­ing as a bul­wark against her Re­pub­lic­an state House’s agenda, in­clud­ing its op­pos­i­tion to Medi­caid ex­pan­sion un­der Obama­care, which she em­braced, or a push to al­low guns on col­lege cam­puses.

As protests con­tin­ue to mount in Ari­zona against the re­li­gious-free­dom le­gis­la­tion, three Re­pub­lic­an state sen­at­ors who voted for it flipped their po­s­i­tions on Monday and said they now be­lieve the meas­ure is ill-con­ceived. Sev­er­al mem­bers of Ari­zona’s con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion, in­clud­ing Sens. John Mc­Cain and Jeff Flake, both Re­pub­lic­ans, have also come out in op­pos­i­tion to the le­gis­la­tion.

“I just [last night] en­cour­aged her again to veto it,” Flake told Na­tion­al Journ­al on Tues­day. “But I’m not go­ing to speak for her.”

Flake doesn’t have to. As an ac­ci­dent­al Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor who be­came the face of a charged move­ment against il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion in 2010, as a fierce, fin­ger-wag­ging en­emy to the feds, and as an un­likely cham­pi­on of Medi­caid ex­pan­sion un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, Brew­er has al­ways spoken for her­self. Es­pe­cially when the cam­er­as are watch­ing.

And she just might chal­lenge the state con­sti­tu­tion and run for an­oth­er term.

What We're Following See More »
Clapper: ISIS Will Try to Attack U.S. This Year
1 days ago

“Leaders of the Islamic State are determined to strike targets in the United States this year,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a congressional panel today. Clapper added that “al-Qaida, from which the Islamic State spun off, remains an enemy and the U.S. will continue to see cyber threats from China, Russia and North Korea, which also is ramping up its nuclear program.”

CBC PAC to Endorse Clinton This Morning
5 hours ago

The Congressional Black Caucus PAC will formally endorse Hillary Clinton this morning, and “nearly a dozen CBC colleagues will descend on” South Carolina next week in advance of that state’s important primary. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the highest ranking black member of Congress, reversed his earlier position of neutrality, saying he’ll make a decision “later in the week.” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has pointed out that the CBC PAC is not the same things as the CBC itself, while the Intercept notes that 11 of the 20 board members of the PAC are lobbyists.

Senate Votes 96-0 to Sanction North Korea
4 hours ago

In a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the Senate echoed the House’s move last month to stiffen sanctions against North Korea. The bill “would sanction anyone who engages in, facilitates or contributes to North Korea’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms-related materials, luxury goods, human rights abuses, activities undermining cyber security and the provision of materials for such activities.” Senate Democrats said they expect the president to sign the bill. In related news, after South Korea suspended operations at a jointly run power station in the North, Pyongyang declared the area a military zone and cut off a hotline between the two countries.

How Large Is Hillary Clinton’s Delegate Lead?
4 hours ago

Three hundred fifty-two, thanks to superdelegates pledged to Clinton, and the vagaries of the delegate allocation process in early states. Not bad, considering her results have been a virtual tie and a blowout loss.

RNC Chief Would Welcome Bloomberg
3 hours ago

“The lead­ers of the Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic na­tion­al com­mit­tees on Wed­nes­day weighed in on the pro­spect of an in­de­pend­ent pres­id­en­tial run by” former New York City May­or Mi­chael Bloomberg (I). “DNC Chair­wo­man Debbie Wasser­man Schultz sug­ges­ted that the former New York City may­or’s pri­or­it­ies are already ‘well cared-for’ in the Demo­crat­ic plat­form, while RNC lead­er Re­ince Priebus wel­comed the idea, say­ing Bloomberg would si­phon off votes from the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate.”