PHOENIX - A controversial bill passed by the Arizona Legislature has sparked a heated debate.
Senate Bill 1062 re-defines and expands the state’s definition of “exercise of religion” and “state action” to protect businesses, corporations and people from lawsuits after denying services based on sincere religious belief.
Locally run businesses are trying to figure out what this bill means for them if the Governor Jan Brewer chooses to sign it into law.
Some businesses and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council have spoken out against the bill, even asking the governor to veto it.
Right now the Clarendon Hotel and Spa in Phoenix is fully booked.
But owner Ben Bethel worries that will change if Senate Bill 1062 becomes law.
“It's causing a lot of damage to Arizona already,” he said.
Bethel says one guest is considering canceling his reservation. He says that guest told him his wife and kids might feel uncomfortable in Arizona with this debate going on.
He says another guest has already canceled.
“Another guest would've been a month long guest and would've brought about $1,300 in actual state and local city tax revenue just for one guest. And that guest is now canceling his reservation,” Bethel said.
Bethel worries soon all kinds of tourists won't feel welcome in Arizona. He says that will cost the state.
“Already it's strengthening other city's positions when they try to attract conventions and sporting events to their states. Because anything Arizona does that is bad for Arizona only strengthens other cities,” he said.
But Maia Arneson with Christian Business Networking says the bill comes down to protecting religious freedom.
“I think there's a lot of spotlight on it being an issue of gay and Christian. And that's not the case. It's really a case of defending all people,” Arneson said.
Arneson spoke with several small business owners she works with concerning the controversial bill.
She tells us none of those businesses were willing to share their thoughts on camera.
But Arneson maintains there's a lot of support for the bill.
“This isn't an issue of discrimination; it's an issue of having people's values respected,” she said.
She says her support for the bill comes down to religious freedom.
“As a Christian I believe Jesus tells us to love everyone. And I think this is an issue for Christians and Jews and Muslims. It's an issue for everyone to be able to have their beliefs honored and respected by other people,” Arneson said.