Arkansas Passes Own 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Despite criticism that it's a cover for discrimination against gays
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2015 4:41 PM CDT
Arkansas Passes Own 'Religious Freedom' Bill
Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, watches a vote total on an amendment in the House chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock Tuesday. Ballinger sponsored the bill.   (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Indiana might be backing away from its controversial religious freedom law, but Arkansas is embracing one of its own. State lawmakers today approved the bill and sent it along to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is expected to sign, reports Arkansas Online. Arkansas lawmakers rejected attempts to include a clause that would explicitly forbid discrimination against gay people, reports the New York Times. ”If you start shaving out exemptions in laws, next thing you know, you’ll gut the law because everyone will want an exemption,” says Republican state Sen. Bart Hester. In Indiana, meanwhile, Gov. Mike Pence says he wants just such a clarification on his desk by the end of the week, reports AP.

In Arkansas, protesters gathered at the state Capitol in Little Rock for the second consecutive day, and businesses including Walmart and Apple have either expressed reservations or called on Hutchinson to veto the measure. Assuming he doesn't, Arkansas can expect reaction like this: States including New York, Connecticut, and Washington have barred government travel to Indiana in protest, notes NBC News. "They knew what they were doing," says Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. "They were going to make it legal to refuse to serve gay men and women. Somebody has to call them on it." (Pence insists the law has been misconstrued, while the Indianapolis Star railed against in memorable fashion.)

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