On Tuesday, the Arkansas House passed its own Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Now on its way to Governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas might soon follow in the footsteps of Indiana – controversy and all.
The Arkansas law mirrors the one in Indiana that sparked national outrage amongst LGBT advocates and supporters due to its discriminatory nature. Under the law, businesses are essentially allowed to deny service to LGBT individuals and couples based on their sexual orientation. In response to Indiana Governor Mike Pence passing the law, a number of states including New York, Washington and Connecticut banned state-funded travel to Indiana, with individual cities following suit.
“The Arkansas and Indiana bills are virtually identical in terms of language and intent,” Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow said. “They place LGBT people, people of color, religious minorities, women and many more people at risk of discrimination."
Hutchinson said on Monday that he intended to sign the controversial measure.
“If this bill reaches my desk in similar form as to what has been passed in 20 other states then I will sign it,” he said. Hutchinson is expected to announce his decision in a press conference, though there will reportedly be no public signing.
The backlash against Arkansas began almost as soon as the measure began making its way up the ladder, with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon asking Hutchinson to veto it. “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,” McMillon said in a statement. “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.”