WASHINGTON (AP) – The Hispanic National Bar Association on Wednesday said it cancelled its 2015 convention in Phoenix over legislation adding protections for people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays.
The move makes the group one of the first to pull out of Arizona because of the proposed law. President Miguel Alexander Pozo says the group views the controversy as a civil rights issue. “Laws that return us to a darker time in the nation’s history simply cannot be tolerated,” he said in a news release.
The association’s Phoenix convention was supposed to be the group’s 40th. The group’s board of governors voted unanimously not to hold it in Arizona but did not say where the convention would be held instead.
Last year, the Hispanic National Bar Association’s national convention drew about 2,000 people to Denver. It will be held in Washington, D.C., this year.
Business and tourism groups have warned state lawmakers that the bill could adversely affect Arizona’s tourism industry. Tempe, Ariz., lost the 1993 Super Bowl because the state voted against creating a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The city hosted the Super Bowl in 1996 after the voters approved the holiday.
“We are disappointed that there is any legislation that would make anyone feel unwelcome in our state and in our community,” the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association said on its Facebook page.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has until Saturday to either sign or veto the bill.
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