Arkansas Governor Demands Changes To RFRA Bill

As I noted this morning, the battle over RFRA laws and how they impact the arguments over gay rights and same-sex marriage are extending beyond Indiana, particularly to Arkansas where the state legislature approved a bill similar to Indiana’s just yesterday and sent it to Governor Asa Hutchinson. Earlier today, after an uproar that included criticism some several of the biggest companies in the state, Governor Hutchinson announced that he would not sign the bill as it has been presented to him and called on the legislature to make changes to address the concerns expressed by the public:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas on Wednesday called on the state lawmakers to recall or amend legislation billed as a religious freedom measure to make it mirror a federal version passed in 1993.

Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican, said he understood how divided the state and the country was over same-sex marriage and religious freedom — his own son, Seth, had asked him to veto the bill, which critics say could allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against gay men and lesbians.

He said he was also considering using an executive order that would make “Arkansas a place of tolerance.”

“This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “But these are not ordinary times.”

The legislation, which easily cleared the state House by lopsided margins, has created a political rift in the state, with Mark Stodola, the mayor of Little Rock, sending a letter to Governor Hutchinson this week urging him to veto the bill, saying it would have “a negative impact on our state’s image.”

Several businesses, including the state’s largest employer, Walmart, as well as the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Municipal League and other civic groups have come out against the legislation.

Mr. Hutchinson’s announcement comes a day after his counterpart in Indiana, Mike Pence, found him in a tenuous political predicament as he sought to satisfy both the business interests that have threatened to punish the state for its new religious freedom law and local conservatives who fought for the measure and do not want to see it diluted.

Quite obviously, the outcry over the Indiana law, combined with the statements from companies like Walmart that have a great degree of sway in the state influenced the Governor’s decision here. At the very least, it suggests that the momentum for legislation such as this in other parts of the country is likely to be blunted at least for the time being.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, Religion, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Cue freakout from the usual suspects in 1…2…3…

  2. legion says:

    “This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “But these are not ordinary times.”

    “Back in the good old days, we could hate on just about anybody and no one would mind.”

  3. grumpy realist says:

    @grumpy realist: As I said….

    (And none of his argument makes sense. I’m quite sure that people who thought it peachy-keen to keep women from certain positions had equivalent justifications as to how it was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than Not Hiring Black People.)

    (The more he rants and raves about how discrimination against gay people isn’t the same as discrimination by race, the more he shows that it is, indeed, just the same.)

  4. JohnMcC says:

    Wait! Gov Hutchinson said he could use “an executive order to make Arkansas a place of tolerance”. Who died and made him King? Wait until the right-wing defenders of liberty, Jesus and the Constitution get finished schooling him!

  5. ernieyeball says:

    Pence did not answer directly when asked at least six times whether under the law it would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers. “This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach,” he said. Asked again, he said, “Look, the issue here is still is tolerance a two-way street or not.”
    Indiana Governor Mike Pence

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/politics/article/Pence-Effort-to-clarify-religious-objections-6165977.php

    “If I were a politician, I could prove that monkeys talk.”
    Penthouse Pauper
    CCR

    http://www.lyricsfreak.com/c/creedence+clearwater+revival/penthouse+pauper_20034307.html

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Josh Marshall’s take on the whole Indiana thing

  7. grumpy realist says:
  8. JohnMcC says:

    @grumpy realist: In case you haven’t seen Matthew Yglesias describes Mike Pense as ‘a fool, who deserves to be laughed at’:

    http://www.thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2008/09/26/189704/mike_pence_2/

  9. de stijl says:

    The Walton family demanded the change. Hutchinson was merely the messenger.

    An errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

  10. Tyrell says:

    I am against this sort of law because it could be used against any religious group, including Christians. I do not want to be barred from some of my favorite places because I am wearing a Bible t shirt or one of those nail crosses.
    It does cause concern when we see huge corporations like WalMart, and other heavyweights using their power and financial resources to influence legislation in directions that they deem to be correct. This seems to be another level of influence, one that is more powerful than the average person.
    Has anyone else been hearing about this so called “Jade Helm 15” supposedly a huge military exercise to be carried out in this country starting in July ? With broad authority, including going anywhere they want and “borrowing” what they want, including cars ?

  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    Has anyone else been hearing about this so called “Jade Helm 15″ supposedly a huge military exercise to be carried out in this country starting in July ? With broad authority, including going anywhere they want and “borrowing” what they want, including cars ?

    No, because we don’t read crazy.

  12. M. Bouffant says:

    It does cause concern when we see huge corporations like WalMart, and other heavyweights using their power and financial resources to influence legislation in directions that they deem to be correct. This seems to be another level of influence, one that is more powerful than the average person.

    Wow. You really hate America if you think the powerful shouldn’t have more influence than the average person.

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    Has anyone else been hearing about this so called “Jade Helm 15″ supposedly a huge military exercise to be carried out in this country starting in July ? With broad authority, including going anywhere they want and “borrowing” what they want, including cars ?

    (1) Is the point at which Obama finally – as conservatives have been warning/telling us – ignores the Second Amendment and confiscates our guns?
    (2) is this exercise carried out under the joint auspices of the United States military and the United Nations?