Arkansas Legislature Follows Indiana And Passes Bill Allowing Discrimination Against LGBT Community
— Walmart Newsroom (@WalmartNewsroom) March 31, 2015
As Indiana Governor Mike Pence tries to redefine what the law he signed meant in real time, the Arkansas legislature passed a similar law through its legislature. Yesterday the Arkansas legislature passed its own “religious liberty” law with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson saying he will sign it.
Much like in Indiana, a backlash is growing in Arkansas with the business community calling on Governor Hutchinson to veto the bill. Retail giant Walmart, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, said the bill “threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold.”
Walmart joins a list of companies openly opposing state laws that allow discrimination against homosexuals including Apple, Eli Lily, Salesforce, Angie’s List, Yelp, Starbucks, the NBA/WNBA and – wait for it – NASCAR.
The Arkansas bill, which has been criticized by Wal-Mart, other businesses and rights groups, has not yet become the focal point that the Indiana law has become. This latest bill was approved Tuesday in Little Rock despite a last-minute attempt to send it back to a legislative committee so that an anti-discrimination amendment could be added.
State Rep. Clark Tucker, a Democrat, spoke on the House floor in favor of adding such language. “I think everyone in this room is aware that this bill has attracted a lot of attention,” he said. “I think every member of this body and the vast majority of the general public supports protecting religious liberty. I do believe it’s attracted a lot of public attention because it creates the perception that it affirmatively authorizes discrimination.”
The legislature was, not surprisingly, unwilling to add an amendment preventing the bill from being interpreted as authorizing discrimination.
The debate on such bills is essentially a rerun of the same debate concerning the Civil Rights Act which included provisions forcing local business owners that wanted to discriminate against racial minorities to serve those it did not want to. That coercion was seen as illegitimate by many conservatives and libertarians at the time most famously Senator Barry Goldwater who partly inspired the so-called “Reagan Revolution.”
Conservatives are getting a second bite at the apple and this time they hope to win.