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Arkansas Governor Signs Updated Bill

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

ArkansasWe also have some updates out of Arkansas, after the Governor there unexpectedly declined to sign that state’s right to discriminate bill, asking for changes.

Former AG Opposes Bill: Former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote an op-ed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette condemning the “religious freedom” bill passed this week by the legislature but that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has refused to sign. full story

Rights Initiative Can Collect Signatures: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved a proposed referendum to add sexual orientation to a list of categories protected from discrimination full story

Governor Signs Amended Bill: Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a religious freedom measure into law on Thursday after state lawmakers overhauled their proposal so that it mirrors the federal law. full story

Governor Considers Anti Discrimination Order: Hutchinson said he’s considering signing an executive order that bars discrimination among the state’s workforce. full story

ACLU Praises Governor: The ACLU issued a statement praising the Governor’s actions. full story

HRC Calls for LGBT Protections: “The fact remains that the only way to ensure LGBT Arkansans are treated equally under state law is to add explicit protections for them. Moving forward, Arkansas should explicitly clarify that the RFRA cannot be used to undermine non-discrimination protections at any level.” full story

State Supremes Create New Marriage Equality Case: In related news, the state Supreme Court created a new marriage equality case to determine if a justice sworn in in January should help decide whether gay marriage is legal in Arkansas. full story

Arkansas Governor Won’t Sign Bill Without Changes

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

ArkansasLots of news out of Arkansas yesterday after the legislature sent a right to discriminate bill to the Governor’s desk:

Governor Refuses to Sign Bill: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Wednesday that he would not sign the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) as it was presented to him by the legislature on Tuesday, urging the legislature to recall the bill and tweak it so that it better mirrors the narrower federal bill. full story

Governor’s Son Publically Opposed Bill: The Governor revealed that his son Seth Hutchinson publicly denounced his plans to sign the bill, signing a petition. full story

Little Rock Nine Opposed: In a symbolic move, two members of the Little Rock Nine — Carlotta Walls Lanier and Ernie Green have voiced their opposition to Arkansas’ H.B. 1228. full story

Activists Rally for Changes: Hundreds of LGBT rights activists rallied for changes to the bill. full story

Starnes Hates on Walmart: Anti gay commentator Todd Starnes tweeted that Walmart, which opposed the law, is “the home of low prices and no values” and called for a boycott. full story

Senate Approves Amended Bill: The Arkansas Senate on Wednesday night approved transmitting two amended existing bills to the House that add language that mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. full story

Jake Tapper Interviews Bill Author: Watch this guy babble and deflect in some truly Pence-ian doublespeak and note how he repeatedly says “homosexual” rather than “gay.” full story

Arkansas House Sends Right to Discriminate Bill to Governor

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

ArkansasFirst the state legislature wiped out all local LGBT protections in the state. Now they are sending a bill to the Governor that’s similar to Indiana’s new right to discriminate law:

LGBT Weekly reports:

A religious freedom bill that is similar to the Indiana law that has faced national backlash for legalizing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cleared the Arkansas Legislature Tuesday. The bill will now go before Gov. Asa Hutchinson, where it is expected to be signed. According to The Huffington Post the Arkansas legislation allows a person who feels his or her exercise of religion has been “substantially burdened” to cite that argument as a claim or defense in a private lawsuit. The legislation also grants corporations the right to religious freedom. This language is not in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and critics say it could be used to override existing anti-discrimination protections.

The Mayor of Little Rock asked the Governor to veto the bill:

Little Rock’s mayor is urging Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a “religious freedom” bill that critics have said sanctions discrimination against gays and lesbians and that the mayor argues will hurt the state’s economic development efforts. Mayor Mark Stodola called the bill “simply too divisive” in a letter sent to Hutchinson and released by the city on Tuesday.

So did Walmart:

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest company, on Tuesday asked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the freshly-passed HB 1228, a so-called “religious freedom” bill that is really a “religious bigotry” law. Immediately after the bill was passed, Wal-Mart released a statement from its CEO, Doug McMillan, asking the governor to veto the bill. In the statement, McMillan says: “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.”

But the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown is calling on the state to hold the line:

Dear Marriage Supporter, DON’T LET THEM DO TO ARKANSAS WHAT THEY DID TO INDIANA! Minutes ago Arkansas passed a religious freedom bill. We know the other side is going to try to bully and intimidate Governor Hutchinson out of signing this bill. The time to act is NOW! Support Governor Hutchinson and urge him to Not be Bullied and Sign the Law. Also tweet out #IStandWithArkansas and get onto Facebook and let everyone know your support! It’s urgently needed that you forward this message to your friends and family and ask them to take action as well. We must stand up against this pernicious assault against religious liberty.

The Governor has previously indicated that he plans to sign the bill.