Businesses Lash Out Over Arizona's Anti-Gay Bill

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Arizona residents protest a controversial bill that would allow business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. (CNN)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Businesses are lashing out over an Arizona bill that would allow retailers to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers based on the owners' religious convictions.

The Arizona Legislature passed the bill last Thursday, and it is now awaiting Gov. Jan Brewer's signature. While proponents say the legislation was introduced as a way to afford religious freedom to business owners, critics say it opens the door to discrimination.

"When the legislature passes bills like this, it creates a reputation that Arizona is judgmental and unwelcoming," states a letter that more than 80 businesses sent to Gov. Brewer on Monday. "This will haunt our business community for decades to come."

National corporations including American Airlines, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Intel, Marriott, PetSmart and Yelp are among those urging Brewer to veto the bill, saying the law would be bad for the state's reputation and bad for business -- repelling tourists, potential employees and current workers who live in the state.

"I can assure you that this proposed legislation is causing tremendous concerns for our employees, particularly those who live and work in Arizona," American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wrote in a letter to Brewer.

Meanwhile, Intel, which has nearly 12,000 employees in Arizona, said the bill directly conflicts with its own non-discrimination policy, which "values and welcomes diversity in the workplace."

A local Tucson pizza shop, Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria, has received national attention for opposing the bill by putting up a sign saying it reserves the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators.

Meanwhile, business development groups fear that new companies will no longer want to relocate to the state -- dealing a huge blow to an economy that is only just beginning to recover from the recession.

Barry Broome, president & CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said in a letter to Gov. Brewer that four companies that were considering expanding to Arizona have already threatened to cancel their plans unless the bill is vetoed.

Even Apple, which recently announced plans to build a new glass plant in Mesa, Ariz., and bring 2,000 new jobs to the state, reportedly called on Brewer to veto the bill.

There are also questions about whether next year's Super Bowl would still take place in Arizona if the bill is passed, with the event expected to be a big boon to the economy.

"This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts," Broome's letter states.

The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee said it did not support the legislation.

"We share the NFL's core values which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination," the committee said in a statement. "We have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential."


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