Gov. Jan Brewer on Feb. 26 vetoed the controversial Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed business owners to refuse service to homosexuals and others based on religious grounds.
While the bill was vetoed, its support and passing in both houses of the state Legislature has long-term consequences in the state, business leaders said.
Gay-rights and business groups had staunchly opposed the measure across Arizona; gay-rights groups saw the legislation as specifically targeting gays, and business groups such as the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association believed that the bill would have strongly discouraged tourism and hurt the state economy.
Before the veto, business people and residents of Tombstone echoed statewide opposition to the bill, opposing it on philosophical grounds. Some also said they worried about the effects it could have on the tourist business in the town.
Some said that not only was the bill discriminatory, but it didn’t add any significant legal protections.
“The right to refuse service to anybody is already a protected right,” said Kyle Bengel, a Tombstone resident and business owner. “All this does is codify the ability to refuse service to a very particular group of people, and in that way I think it is designed to be inflammatory.”
Heather Lamb, a photographer at The Can-Can Old-Time Photos, said, “We have a sign up: If you’re going to come in and act unruly in my store I can tell you to leave.”
“But I’m not going to say ‘you’re gay, get out,’” she said. “It’s horrible, even if I wasn’t a lesbian it’s still horrible. You should be allowed to go wherever you want and do whatever you want.”
There was concern that the bill could dissuade certain people from visiting the state, which is especially significant as the demographics of tourism in Tombstone changes.
“I think we’re still going to get the 75-year-old cowboy junkies here, this won’t make any difference to them at all,” Bengel said. “But if you’re a Gen X, Gen Y, or millennial, it’s offensive to you.”
Brittney George, a Tombstone resident and Heather Lamb’s partner, said, “There are a lot of gay and lesbian couples walking in and out of town, all day every day. It’s one in every few couples lately, especially on the weekends.”