Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said Wednesday morning he will not sign a controversial religious liberty bill, saying he wants lawmakers to recall the bill and change it so that it more closely resembles federal law.Now because of the quirks associated with the way the law was passed (it can go into effect without the governor’s signature), it will be interesting to see what is done to change it if anything.
“This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial,” he said during a news conference. “But these are not ordinary times.”
While Hutchinson said the current bill is fairly straightforward, he says the issue “has become divisive because our nation remains split over how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions.”
This fissure has reached his own household, Hutchinson said, describing how his son, Seth, signed a petition asking him to veto the bill.
But this change of opinion comes, in no small part, because of the unprecedented reaction to corporate America. And not just from companies that you would normally think would be against the bill like Apple. But from Walmart and Marriott.
Here’s a little sampling of what they have to say about the bills in the two states and these types of bills in general.
Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorensen:
“This is just plain wrong and … and we will not stand for it … the notion that you can tell businesses that somehow they are free to discriminate is madness. The discouraging thing about this is that these politicians must believe it’s in their interest to pass legislation like this, to create this politics of divisiveness,” he says.
Sorensen said he, like many others, was taken aback by news that the bill had been passed and signed into law in Indiana. “I was frustrated because I didn’t realize this was happening. It snuck up on us. If we had even six hours’ notice, there would have been a letter on the governor’s desk.”
On Tuesday, the company's Twitter account shared a statement from (Wal-Mart CEO Doug) McMillon, in which he asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto HB1228, the Arkansas "religious freedom" bill that passed the state legislature on Tuesday and is awaiting Hutchinson's signature. Passage of that law, he said in the tweet, "threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold."
Another company located in Arkansas Acxiom said in a letter:
. . . simply stated, this bill inflicts pain on some of our citizens and disgrace upon us all. This bill will have the practical effect of excluding parents, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors from pursuing normal, everyday life, that straight citizens take for granted. That is not what Arkansas should stand for; we should be an ever forward-thinking state that strives for tolerance and inclusion of everyone, regardless of their differences."
Wow. Let me say that again wow. Can you imagine this type of reaction ten years ago or even five years ago. No I can't either.
My friend Denis pointed out that even NASCAR yes NASCAR is against this bill:
"NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race," NASCAR's Brett Jewkes, senior vice president and chief communications officer, said in a statement to NBC Sports.
"For 105 years the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has engaged millions who want to celebrate the true spirit of American racing. IMS will continue to warmly welcome all who share our enthusiasm for motorsports – employees, participants and fans."
Seems to me if even NASCAR comes out against the bill you are essentially toast.
As bad as this law is and it is very bad (no matter what the apologists say about it), this version of the religion freedom restoration act, in both Indiana and Arkansas, is nothing like the federal statue at all. It would allow for discrimination. The main proponents of the law in Indiana said so go to Advance America's website and you can see it listed there.
But what is really incredible is that no one believed this BS. The corporate community came down on this like a ton of bricks. And that indeed shows just how much times have changed.