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PetSmart calls for veto of Arizona bill

PetSmart opposes Arizona religious freedom bill

Phoenix-based PetSmart has joined a growing number of businesses urging Arizona Gov.Jan Brewer to veto SB1062, which would let businesses refuse service to gay and lesbians on the basis of religious freedom.

Appearing on CNBC's "Closing Bell," PetSmart CEO David K. Lenhardt said Tuesday that the bill would negatively affect business in the Grand Canyon State.

"We absolutely would like to see the governor veto this bill," he said. "We think it's bad for Arizona business. We think it's bad for the people of Arizona. Arizona is good for business, but this bill is not. ... That's why we are urging the governor to veto this bill."

Supporters of the proposal say it will protect religious freedom, but critics argue that it could allow companies to discriminate against the gay and lesbian community.

Lenhardt wouldn't say whether he would consider moving PetSmart's headquarters out of the state if SB1062 were to become law, but he called the business a "hometown company" that has been in Arizona for 26 years.

The pet supply store operator has 3,734 employees in Arizona.

Brewer is expected to make her decision over the weekend, according to NBC News.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
Getty Images
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

Corporate opposition has been mounting. American Airlines, hotel chain operator Marriott and technology giants Apple and Intel have all gone on record against the bill.

"We believe that SB1062 would have a detrimental effect on the local business community by promoting discord and damaging Arizona's status as a hospitable place to grow business and attract top talent," Intel said in a statement to CNBC.

Meanwhile, Apple's opposition comes as it prepares to open a sapphire glass plant in Mesa, Ariz., that is expected to create more than 2,000 engineering, manufacturing and construction jobs.

(Read more: Apple calls for veto of Arizona religious freedom bill)

Apple confirmed to CNBC that it has asked Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the religious freedom bill. It reissued a statement released when it announced the plant.

The NFL said it was watching developments in Arizona, where next year's Super Bowl is slated to be held.

"Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard," the NFL said in a statement. "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."

Some people think fears the bill will have a negative impact are overblown.

"It is not an invitation to discriminate," said Ilya Shapiro, a legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "It's a way of reinforcing that religious liberty is an important value, just like equality under the law is an important value."

—By CNBC's Ryan Ruggiero with Drew Sandholm. Follow them on Twitter @RyanRuggiero and @DrewSandholm.

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