Hours after he repeatedly dodged the question on national TV of whether he supports or opposes an Arizona-style anti-gay law, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he would veto it. His new statement came after he was denounced on social media outlets and his likely Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, blasted him for not immediately opposing any form of discrimination.
At issue is a bill that the Arizona Legislature has passed that would allow business owners to refuse to serve gay customers based on religious beliefs. On MSNBC's The Daily Rundown Wednesday, Scott was asked about the issue three times and dodged the question each time. In Scott's new statement, he made reference to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who must decide by Friday whether to sign or veto the bill.
“I don’t want to tell Gov. Brewer what to do, she can do what’s best for her state," Scott said. "From my understanding of that bill, I would veto it in Florida because it seems unnecessary. In Florida, we are focused on economic growth, and not on things that divide us. We are for freedom here in Florida. And we want everyone to come here, create jobs, and live in freedom, and that includes religious liberty. I am very much opposed to forcing anyone to violate their conscience or their religious beliefs, and of course, I’m very much opposed to discrimination. As a society, we need to spend more time learning to love and tolerate each other, and less time trying to win arguments in courts of law. Other states can spend their time fighting over issues like this, but in Florida we are laser focused on creating jobs and opportunities. It’s working, and we need to keep it going and will not get distracted by this or anything else.”
Scott trails Crist in public opinion polls in the 2014 governor's race, which will be decided in part by independent voters who often have more moderate positions on social issues. Scott's statement suggests that his advisors saw the potential for substantial political damage if he refused to address the issue immediately.
For his part, Crist rushed out a response to Scott's statement: "Being against discrimination is not the kind of issue that requires much thought, but I am glad that after the justifiable outrage to Gov. Scott's response to the issue, that he came around to the right position," Crist said.