A bill that passed Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature allowing businesses to refuse service on religious grounds has created a national furor as companies from American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ:AAL) to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) have lobbied Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill. The legislation has been widely criticized as a de facto means for Arizona businesses to legally refuse to serve gays, and has generated a media firestorm.

Jan Brewer

Brewer: National backlash to conservative measure

Dozens of businesses, including heavyweights such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ:AAL), have contacted Governor Brewer to ask her to veto the legislation, and thousands of people have protested the measure in Phoenix and elsewhere across the state. Several businesses even mentioned that passage of the legislation might impact their continued relationship with the state.

A statement from American Airlines today said the bill has the potential to reduce the desire of companies to relocate in the state and to repel convention business. Hundreds of tourists have already cancelled their reservations for trips to Arizona, and a number of gay and civil rights groups are organizing a boycott of the state.

Legislation is part of conservative response to gay marriage trend

Gay advocates point out that Arizona’s bill is eerily similar to legislation under consideration in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi and Kansas in response to the gay marriage movement. “This is a new strategy,” said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. “As more states and the public are recognizing the freedom to marry, proponents of this legislation have been quite explicit in their desire to use freedom of religion to discriminate.”

Statement from Brewer

When asked in a press conference on Saturday whether she plans to sign the bill this week, Brewer replied she planned to review it. “I don’t have to make a decision until next Friday, so I’ve got plenty of time,” Brewer said.

In response to a question from a reporter about the NFL’s statement that they “were watching the situation,” Brewer declined to speculate regarding whether next year’s Super Bowl could move from Arizona if the bill becomes law. “You should address that issue to the Super Bowl,” she replied.