PHOENIX -- Three Republican senators who voted for Senate Bill 1062 said Monday they made a bad decision in a rushed process and are now asking Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the right-to-refuse-service bill.
"We feel it was a solution in search of a problem," Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, said in an impromptu news conference outside the state Senate. He was joined by Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott.
The two, along with Senate Majority Whip Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, sent Brewer a letter Monday morning asking for a veto.
"While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance," the three wrote. "These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm."
Under the bill, business owners would have the freedom to deny service to gay and lesbian customers as long as they assert their religious beliefs as a reason for doing so. Brewer has until Saturday to decide whether to veto the bill, to the satisfaction of business leaders; sign it into law, an act that could put the state's economy and tourism industry in jeopardy; or allow it to become law without her signature.
Pierce and Worsley said the bill was moved along very quickly, not giving them enough time to convince fellow lawmakers to vote against it. Besides, Pierce said, they didn't want to "tear apart" the GOP caucus, which was sharply divided last year over Brewer's push for Medicaid expansion.
But the reaction from constituents to the business community reinforced their discomfort with their "yes" votes, they said, leading to the call for a veto.
Worsley noted the bill made a fairly minor tweak to the state's existing statute protecting religious freedom, and said that was more reason to question why the bill was needed.
He said he asked Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, over the weekend to allow the Senate to reconsider last week's vote, but Biggs declined. If such a vote were to happen, it would fail, since the three Republicans would join with the 13 Democrats to vote it down.