Speed Read: Backing off bias

ARIZONA GOVERNOR VETOES BIAS BILL: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced at about 6 p.m. MST Wednesday that she had vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which sought to allow people to discriminate based on self-claimed religious beliefs and was targeted at LGBT people. In a letter to the Senate President, Brewer suggested she sympathized with supporters of the legislation. “As a result of actions taken by the Obama Administration, as well as some federal and out-of-state courts,” said Brewer, “I am increasingly concerned about government’s encroachment upon our religious freedoms.” But, she said, SB 1062 “does not seek to address a specific and present concern related to Arizona businesses” and its “broadly worded” language “could result in unintended and negative consequences.” In fact, the bill has already resulted in the loss of at least one major convention. The Hispanic National Bar Association’s board announced Wednesday that it voted unanimously to pull its 2015 convention – a conference of more than 2,000 lawyers– from the state. See full story.

MISSISSIPPI RECONSIDERS BIAS BILL: The Mississippi legislature was very close to passing a similar religious bias bill in the guise of a measure that sought to add the words “In God We Trust” to the state seal. The state senate unanimously passed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act last month and the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on HB 2681 this morning. But the House subcommittee on Wednesday night voted to remove the religious bias language from the bill. Republican Governor Phil Bryant had said he supported adding to the state seal but he studiously avoided saying whether he supports the religious bias language. A vote on the House floor could come as early as today, but Jeff White, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Gulf Coast LGBT community center says his organization “no longer has any problem with” the bill.

‘IT’S NOT ABOUT CAKE’ IN GEORGIA: The Georgia House and Senate are considering a bill, similar to Arizona’s, that seeks to enable people to claim religious beliefs in order to discriminate against others. During a hearing in the House on Monday, openly gay state Rep. Simone Bell said of her objection to the measure, “It’s not about a cake. It’s not about a wedding event” but about freedom from discrimination (see Project Q Atlanta video). She also told the hearing that LGBT people are “people of faith.” “I believe in religious freedom, but I don’t believe in religious freedom being used to discriminate against anyone for any particular reason.” A second hearing for Wednesday was canceled abruptly and there is no clear picture when the next movement on the legislation will come.

TEXAS MARRIAGE BANS FALL: A federal judge in San Antonio ruled Wednesday that Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution and demean the dignity of gay couples “for no legitimate reason.” Judge Orlando Garcia, a Clinton appointee, granted two plaintiff couples’ request for an injunction barring the state from enforcing the ban. But, like federal district court judges in Virginia and Utah, Garcia stayed his order pending appeal of the case to the federal appeals level. Attorney General Greg Abbott announced immediately his plans to appeal. The Garcia ruling was in DeLeon v. Texas, in which two same-sex couples challenged the state’s statutory ban and its state constitutional ban on marriages for same-sex couples. One couple had married in Massachusetts and sought recognition in Texas; the second couple sought to marry in Texas. See full story.

PUBLISHING NAMES IN UGANDA: Just one day after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, a newspaper called the Red Pepper published a list of 200 names of people it is identifying as gay.

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