POLITICS
02/26/2014 01:15 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2014

John Kerry Weighs In On Arizona's Anti-Gay Bill

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out Wednesday against the recently passed anti-gay legislation in Arizona, giving the Obama administration's most detailed response to the bill thus far.

SB 1062 would allow businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians on the grounds of "religious freedom." It awaits action by Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who has until the end of the day Saturday to sign or veto it. If she does nothing, it automatically becomes law.

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC Wednesday, Kerry said he believed that even if the bill is signed, it likely would be struck down as unconstitutional.

"I'm counting on the governor -- I cannot imagine how that law would withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court of the United States. So I would hope that she'll make the right decision," Kerry said.

SB 1062 has garnered widespread opposition, with politicians including the state's two Republican U.S. senators urging Brewer to veto it. The business community -- including state and local economic organizations as well as major corporations like Apple and Delta -- has also expressed concern and said they don't want such a law in the state. Even three Republican state senators who voted for the bill have come out and said they would now like to see it vetoed.

In recent days, Kerry has also spoken out forcefully against Uganda's new anti-gay bill, which would sentence offenders found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality" to prison terms ranging from 14 years to life. The law also makes it a crime to fail to report someone who is gay.

When asked by Mitchell whether measures like the one in Arizona undermine America's moral posture in criticizing laws like Uganda's, Kerry said no:

This has not been an easy path in the United States. But what's important is we're on the path, we're staying steady, we've made enormous progress in the United States, and we will stand up for people's rights anywhere in the world because that's who we are in the United States of America.

I think this law in Uganda -- the notion that for somebody being gay, they would be thrown into jail for 14 years or otherwise punished in other ways -- is disgraceful. We have spoken out about it. It's contrary to fundamental basic human rights. It's also contrary to science. It's contrary to fact. It's contrary to everything that we believe is representative of a growing understanding in the world about the rights of our fellow human beings. And so we will fight against it.

Now, I was not aware until recently, very recently, that there are 80 countries that have laws on their books of one kind or another that outlaw homosexuality. And it's just -- this is going to be now a fight that's going to be taken from places where great progress has been made, to the world. And I think we're going to see increasing discussion, increasing change and ultimately I believe people's rights will be honored in the way that they should be. It will take a while longer, but this is a fight worth fighting.

The White House had so far refused to take a public position on Arizona's bill. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reaffirmed that President Barack Obama supports equality for LGBT people but told reporters that "as a practice," the White House steers clear of weighing in on state bills.

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