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Feb 22, 2014 12:19 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Critics worry religious rights bill will hurt business and tourism

TUCSON - Some business and tourism groups are asking Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill they believe might lead to discrimination.

Supporters SB 1062 call it a religious freedom bill. Critics are calling it the "right to discriminate" bill.

Rep. Steve Smith's district covers much of northern Pima County including Marana and Oro Valley. He voted in favor of the bill but did not expect so much negative feedback.

"I didn't think people would try to stretch it out to something that it isn't," Smith said. "A lot of people are trying to make this bill something that it does not try to do."

The bill does not directly mention sexuality, race or gender.

"You can't make me do something just because you think you can," Smith said. "No. As a business owner, I have the right to do whatever I want, last time I checked."

Visit Tucson, an organization that encourages Southern Arizona tourism, received phone calls and messages from around the country after the bill passed, according to its Executive Vice President, Felipe Garcia.

"They have no idea what's going on," Garcia said. "And the perception they're going to be forming, or the criteria, what they're going to decide about our community is, 'Well, you guys are going to be discriminating.'"

The Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce wrote an open letter to Gov. Brewer asking her to veto the bill. The President and CEO of the group, Lea Marquez-Peterson, said she is worried about history repeating itself.

"This created quite an uproar, I would say, in the business community," she said. "We are concerned about the negative public effects of SB 1062 much like SB 1070 had on our state."

Brewer said she will make a decision about a veto by next Friday.

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