American Turban

Vetoed: Arizona Governor preserves memorial to Balbir Singh Sodhi

Rana Singh Sodhi visits the part of the state's 9/11 Memorial where the name of his brother, Balbir, a Sikh murdered after being mistaken for an Arab, is etched. (Michael Schennum/The Arizona Republic)

Rana Singh Sodhi visits the part of the state's 9/11 Memorial where the name of his brother, Balbir, a Sikh murdered after being mistaken for an Arab, is etched. (Michael Schennum/The Arizona Republic)

In recent days, I have heard concerns from some of the Arizona families directly affected by the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. For their sake, I am sorry this issue has reared its head once more.

— An excerpt from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s letter to the Secretary of State, explaining why she vetoed Arizona’s state bill HB 2230, which sought to modify the state’s 9/11 memorial, including the removal of (post-9/11 hate crime victim) Balbir Singh Sodhi‘s name.  The bill’s original sponsor, John Kavanagh, mistakingly believed that Balbir Singh’s murder in the days after 9/11 was unrelated to the attacks. 

After meeting with the Sodhi family, Kavanagh expressed regret about including this removal from the memorial, but since the bill had already passed through Arizona’s state legislature, the only way the action could be stopped was if the Governor vetoed the bill.  As Governor Brewer also states in her letter to Arizona’s Secretary of State:

The sponsor of this legislation had good intentions, but I am concerned about the unintended consequences that would have resulted from this bill.  For example, the removal of Balbir Singh Sodhi’s name from the 9/11 Memorial would have been a serious mistake with hurtful ramifications for the Sodhi family and the entire Sikh community in Arizona.

The Sikh American Legal Defense Fund (SALDEF), who in the past week created a petition to support a veto of the bill, released a statement yesterday:

SALDEF commends Rana Singh Sodhi, as well as the entire Sodhi family, and representatives of the Arizona Sikh American community, including Gururoop Kaur Khalsa, for directly engaging with Rep. Kavanaugh and Gov. Brewer to ensure the bill would be vetoed. Furthermore, the composure and poise consistently demonstrated by the Sodhi family despite their loss should serve as an exemplar for the entire Sikh American community.

SALDEF thanks Governor Brewer for her prompt response in vetoing the bill and our local community partners, especially the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona for its involvement since the outset of this issue.

It is important for Sikhs to continue to bring awareness about such issues, but to also be aware that sometimes ignorance does not have a malicious intent.  This situation in Arizona was resolved because understanding was given by both sides.

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