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Little Rock, Ark. — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson today signed a revised version of the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act that supporters say closely resembles existing federal law.
Hutchinson earlier this week had rejected the first version of the law Arkansas lawmakers sent to his desk, but did not veto it, despite being urged by Walmart, other businesses and organizations and his son to do so.
Hutchinson asked lawmakers to recall the law that the Arkansas House had given final approval on Tuesday — or to send him follow-up legislation that makes the changes he requested.
The Arkansas Senate handily approved a revised measure Wednesday night.
The House Thursday afternoon voted 76-17 to pass the new bill, which prohibits state and local government from infringing on someone’s religious beliefs without proving a compelling interest.
In the wake of intense backlash against a similar law in Indiana, first-term Republican governor had rejected the first version Arkansas lawmakers had sent to his desk, instead asking for two tweaks so there would be no daylight between his state’s law and the one President Bill Clinton signed in 1993.
“I think it’s sending the right signal, the way this has been resolved, to the world and the country that Arkansas understands the diversity of our culture and workforce but also the importance of balancing that with our sincerely held religious convictions,” Hutchinson said when signing the new bill.
Hutchinson has said he’s considering signing an executive order that bars discrimination among the state’s workforce.
To view the Arkansas ACLU’s most recent statement on the issue, click ACLU statement 4-2-15.