- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee sent a stark warning to state lawmakers over a bill that allows businesses to cite religious exemptions as reason to refuse service to gays: You could lose the Super Bowl.

The NFL, meanwhile, said it has put the state on its watch list, concerned the bill could be discriminatory.

The big game is set for Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium next year — but all that could change, state committee members warned, The Daily Mail reported.

The bill could “deal a significant blow” to the state’s economy, committee members said, in a statement published by USA Today. “On that matter [of the religious exemption bill], we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of the legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state’s economic growth potential. We do not support this legislation.”

Business groups fear the NFL could face boycotts if Gov. Jan Brewer signs the bill, called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or S.B. 1062. And while the NFL has not rendered an opinion on the matter, a league spokesman did say the organization was watching closely — and reminded that intolerance was not part and parcel of the NFL industry.

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard,” said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, in The Daily Mail. “We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”

Supporters of the bill say it’s not discriminatory and rather only allows businesses run by owners with religious beliefs that teach homosexuality is a sin to refuse service to gays. They argue that the bill is only upholding the religious rights of business owners.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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