Apple (AAPL) was among a number of heavyweight companies with interests in Arizona that strongly urged Gov. Jan Brewer to veto SB1062, the controversial legislation that would have allowed business owners with strong religious beliefs to refuse service to certain people and organizations, including members of the LGBT community.
On Feb. 26, Governor Brewer, who had until Feb. 28 to sign the bill into law, vetoed the proposed legislation, saying it "could divide Arizona in ways we could not even imagine and no one would ever want." She said the broadly worded bill could prompt unintended negative consequences.
American Airlines (AAL), AT&T (T), Delta Airlines (DAL), Marriott (MAR) and pro-business organizations joined the iPhone maker in conveying to Brewer in a letter that the bill, whose opponents have labeled it as "state-sanctioned discrimination," would be bad for business. In addition, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, which will host the National Football League championship game next year, also opposed the legislation. More than 80 companies signed on to the letter in opposition to the bill and asking the governor to veto it.
According to the Arizona Capitol Times, Apple went even farther by calling the governor’s office directly to voice its opposition. In Apple’s case, the vendor may have commanded the leverage to back up its position as it readying a new, 1.3 million square-foot manufacturing plant in Mesa that could employ up to 2,000 people to make scratch-resistant sapphire crystal coverings for future iPhone and iPod displays, camera lenses and fingerprint readers, and perhaps the vendor’s long-rumored iWatch.
Apple’s partner in the Mesa deal is New Hampshire-based GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT). Some 700 people initially are expected to work at the Mesa plant and GT, not Apple, will employ the workers. Apple bought the building for $113 million and will lease it back to GT. The vendor received a $10 million grant from the Arizona Commerce Authority that sweetened the deal and already has paid $1.06 million in impact fees to Mesa.
Apple also maintains six retail stores in Arizona.
It’s not clear from reports who at Apple called Brewer’s office to convey the vendor’s sentiments on the hot potato bill but, according to a Fortune account, it wasn’t CEO Tim Cook. Still, someone high up the ladder at Apple must be having second thoughts about the business climate in Arizona going forward.
“There is genuine concern throughout the business community that this bill, if signed into law, would jeopardize all that has been accomplished so far,” wrote Doug Parker, American Airlines chief executive, in the letter to Governor Brewer as quoted in a Bloomberg report. “Our economy thrives best when the doors of commerce are open to all.”