Senate Bill 1062, which was vetoed
by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Wednesday, was misconstrued by the left, says Arizona state Sen. Al Melvin, who voted for the controversial legislation that would have allowed businesses to deny service to gays based on religious belief.
"This bill is a religious freedom bill, but the left took it and tried to turn it into a piece of legislation that fostered discrimination, and it's not true, and it's a shame that they did that because no discrimination was ever intended," he told Newsmax TV's J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" Friday.
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Melvin, a Republican who was first elected to the Arizona Senate in 2008, declared last year that he would be running for governor in 2014 even if incumbent Republican Brewer was also in the race.
Asked what he would have done if he had been governor, Melvin replied, "What should have been done, in my view, is the governor should have led on this issue. She should have gotten out front and explained to the people that this was a religious freedom bill and explained it to them and that there was never any discrimination intended."
Melvin described himself as a "conservative Reagan Republican."
"I'm from the right, but this vitriol and extreme reaction from the left is so sad. The emails coming into my office and other Republican senators, voice mail messages, and live on telephone, [are] the worst words ... you've ever read or heard in your life. I've never seen anything like it in all my years."
The retired Navy captain, who spent 30 years in the Naval Reserve, argued there is a broader attack underway on civil liberties and on religion and faith in America, citing as one example the pressure faced by the Pentagon to abolish "don't ask, don't tell" in the military.
"There's a relentless assault on all the pillars of traditional society, including the Boy Scouts. The pressure that was brought to bear to allow gay leadership, also just the relentless attack on marriage as defined between one man and one woman, and the traditional family.
"It goes on and on, and it's relentless, up until this reaction to this religious freedom deal here in Arizona," Melvin said.
He also suggested that proponents of SB1062 could have been better prepared for progressive forces in Arizona, couching this issue as a civil rights matter.
"We should've done better planning on this. For instance, several years ago, we got a ballot proposition passed [due to] the efforts of evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons. We worked for months on the ballot measure that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. It took time to do that, but, in the end, the voters voted for it in a substantial manner," Melvin explained.
"In this case, [SB1062] worked its way through the House and Senate but, in retrospect, one could say the governor did not get out and help lead on the measure, and we could've done a better job."
"But, on the other hand … the Heritage Foundation has come out in defense of this, Rush Limbaugh today is doing that, Mike Huckabee and others, the Catholic bishops in Arizona were in favor of and behind this bill," Melvin added.
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