BREAKING: Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson Sends Religious Freedom Bill Back to Legislature

April 1st 2015

Mike Vainisi

UPDATE (WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 12:00 p.m. ET): Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson said in a press conference Wednesday morning that he will not sign the religious freedom bill as it stands now and sent it back to the legislature to be amended. Hutchinson referred to the bill as "divisive," and called on the legislature to amend, recall, or pass a follow-up bill to clarify the language.

Arkansas' House of Representatives just passed a religious freedom bill that is very similar to Indiana's, according to multiple reports. Because the Arkansas Senate already passed the measure last week, it now goes to Governor Asa Hutchinson (R), who has indicated that he will sign the legislation into law. According to the New York Times, the Arkansas legislature rejected attempts to carve out an exemption prohibiting discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

Like the Indiana law, Arkansas' bill has already drawn opposition in and out of the state. Wal-Mart, which is headquartered in Arkansas, has come out against the bill. The company's CEO, Doug McMillan, asked the governor to veto the bill in a statement.

“Every day in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve. It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual. Today’s passage of H.B. 1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold. For these reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation."

Little Rock-based technology company Acxiom called the bill a "deliberate vehicle" to discriminate against LGBT people. The Little Rock Chamber of Commerce said it would be "bad for business."

Arkansas' former Republican Speaker of the House also tweeted his opposition:

Meanwhile, Apple's CEO Tim Cook called the measure "dangerous" in a Washington Post op-ed, and retailers Levi Straus and Gap specifically spoke out against the proposed legislation. Other businesses such as Salesforce, Paypal, and Subaru have condemned similar legislation in Indiana.

(h/t to The Arkansas Times for aggregating opposition)