Arizona's governor is watching an intense debate from afar over a controversial bill that would allow the use of religious beliefs as a basis for refusing service to gays and others without fear of lawsuits.
The Arizona Legislature passed Senate Bill 1062 on Thursday and the bill could reach Gov. Jan Brewer's desk as early as Monday, giving her next week to consider how she will sign or veto it.
The Republican governor, who is attending a conference of governors from across the USA in the nation's capital, rarely comments on bills before they reach her desk.
She spoke Friday with CNN: "Well, it's a very controversial piece of legislation. We know that. We know that it's failed in a lot of states across the country. ... I've been reading about it on the Internet, and I will make my decision some time before ... by next Friday ... if I do decide to sign it.
"But it's very controversial, so I've got to get my hands around it," Brewer said.
Socially conservative groups that oppose gay marriage are promoting the twin bills, SB 1062 and HB 2153. GOP state Sen. Steve Yarbrough created his bill in response to a New Mexico Supreme Court decision against a photographer who refused to take a gay couple's wedding pictures.
In a letter sent Friday to Brewer's office, Phoenix area economic officials raise concerns that the bill, which shields businesses from being sued if they deny service based on religious beliefs, could cast a negative light on the state as it prepares to host a number of high-profile events, including next year's Super Bowl.
Barry Broome, president and chief executive of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said his group already has heard from four companies being wooed by the Arizona Commerce Authority that have said they will look elsewhere if SB 1062 becomes law.
"This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts," Broome and James Lundy, the council's chairman, said in the letter.
In coming days, insiders say Brewer will meet with gubernatorial policy advisers, members of the business community, lawmakers and others, as she weighs whether she should sign the bill into law.
She has five days from when the bill arrives at her office to sign it, veto it or let it become law without her signature.
Grant Woods, who frequently talks with Brewer about legislation and other matters, said he expects to talk soon with the governor to urge her to not sign SB 1062. Woods, who also advised her against signing the immigration bill, said the proposed legislation is bigoted and could trigger boycotts against Arizona.
Brewer has been following the lawmakers' arguments for and against the bill, Woods said.
"Hopefully, from my perspective, she'll see this will put Arizona in a national negative light," Woods said, adding he believes the legislation is directed at gays and lesbians. "It shows Arizona is really going in the opposite direction on important issues at a time when the country seems to be moving forward."