ARKANSAS: State House Sends Anti-Gay License To Discriminate Bill To Desk Of GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas's Religion Freedom Restoration Act was approved by the state's House of Representatives on Tuesday in a final vote before it heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk. Hutchinson has said repeatedly he will sign the measure into law despite opponents who have called it discriminatory and a backlash against similar legislation in Indiana that has that state's governor seeking to further clarify the law's scope. The Arkansas House passed amendments in three separate votes: 68-19, 67-18 and 67-21, to HB1228 on Tuesday. The chamber previously approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville [PHOTO], but had to approve a new version with amendments added in the state Senate.Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola is calling for the governor to veto the bill.
Stodola had a signed letter hand delivered to Hutchinson's office Monday that listed his reasons for being opposed to House Bill 1228, which would not allow the state to "substantially burden a person's right to exercise of religion" unless doing so is necessary "to further a compelling state interest." The capital city's mayor wrote that freedom of religion is already embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
"Indeed, before the introduction of HB1228, the people of Arkansas have always given a high priority to religious freedom and they will continue to give religious freedom a high priority if it is not enacted. This type of legislation is simply not necessary," Stodola wrote. Critics say the bill would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and others. Hundreds rallied against the bill at the state Capitol on Monday when a House committee approved Senate amendments to the bill.