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Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson today did not veto the Religious Freedom bill sitting on his desk but asked Arkansas legislators to recall the bill for revisions.
Later today the Arkansas Senate made moves intended to go along with his intentions.
The newly elected governor Tuesday found himself in a firestorm similar to the one Indiana GOV. Mike Pence is currently embroiled in.
Gov. Hutchinson has been urged to veto the bill by the mighty Walmart Corporation which IS Arkansas, the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, and the Democratic Mayor of Little Rock Mark Stadola. And Hutchinson’s own son signed a petition urging veto of the bill.
Walking a tightrope between his political supporters and the rest of the world Gov. Hutchinson asked legislators to amend the bill to mirror the terms of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton.
The federal bill does not include corporations, and litigation between private citizens provisions that has touched off fears of legalizing discrimination.
“This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial,” the governor said in a press conference. “But these are not ordinary times.”
“What is important from an Arkansas standpoint is one, we get the right balance. And secondly, we make sure that we communicate we’re not going to be a state that fails to recognize the diversity of our workplace, our economy and our future,”
“We want to be known as the state that does not discriminate but understands tolerance” Hutchinson noted and neatly palmed off the issue at the center of this bill which is discrimination against gays or lesbians or sexual orientation by amending state laws or the state constitution by either legislation or popular vote.
The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon passed changes to the bill late Wednesday afternoon that are said to mirror the federal law that protects religious freedom.
The full Senate Wednesday night passed SB 229 by vote of 26-to-6 to resolve impasse and passed SB 975 by vote of 26-to-0.
In a effort to stall the signing into law of the revised HB1228 now known as SB975 the Arkansas ACLU said the revision “still fails to protect against potential use of religion to avoid laws that protect Arkansans from harm such as non-discrimination laws.” The ACLU Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar urged the Governor to work with the Legislature to improve the proposed law.
A House panel was expected to take up the proposals Thursday. The full House is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m.
To see an earlier version of this story, click HERE.