An Arizona state senator went on national television to defend the state's controversial religious-freedom bill against the steady drumbeat of opposition in the media from business leaders and prominent Republicans who have jumped on the "gay rights" bandwagon in opposition to it. Senator Al Melvin, one of the GOP legislators who voted for the bill, went on CNN Monday to defend the measure, which would allow business people to deny service to homosexuals or lesbians if servicing events like same-sex weddings goes against their religious convictions.
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Melvin argued it is the "media frenzy" over the bill, and not the legislators and others who supported it, that it is responsible for whatever damage the controversy has done to the state's reputation. Melvin described the bill as a response to secular attacks on traditional societal norms. "All of the pillars of society are under attack in the United States," Melvin said. "The family, the traditional family, traditional marriage, mainline churches, the Boy Scouts — you name it."
When asked if the bill might also allow businesses to refuse services to other categories of persons, such as unwed mothers are divorced people, Melvin said, "I don't know of anybody in Arizona who would discriminate against another human being."
"Really?" Cooper replied. "I know people in New York who do. No one in Arizona discriminates?" That gave Melvin, a candidate for governor this year, an opportunity to defend Arizona's reputation against the implications of a New York newsman.
"Maybe you should move to Arizona," he said. "We're more people-friendly here."
The verbal sparring continued, with Cooper at one point asking Melvin whether and against whom Jesus might discriminate.
"I'm against all discrimination, and I want maximum religious freedom," Melvin said several times during the interview. "I know you're trying to set me up and I'm not going to stand for it."
Melvin's stand was in marked contrast to that of most other Republicans who have spoken out on the measure since the bill was passed last week, including three Republican senators who voted for the bill, SB 1062, but now say they've changed their minds. That reversal reflects the blitzkrieg of opposition to the bill, with prominent businessmen and both of the state's U.S. senators urging their fellow Republican, Governor Jan Brewer, to veto it. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, a Republican presidential hopeful in 2012 and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, have also weighed in on the measure, urging a veto. Brewer, who has maintained a strict silence about her intentions, has until Saturday to act on the legislation.
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