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Arkansas Governor Won’t Sign Religious Freedom Bill Deemed Anti-LGBTQ

Spurred on by the controversy over Indiana’s law, he’s asked legislators to amend it.

Image via Asa Hutchinson's Facebook page.

All the backlash over Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act has the Arkansas governor rethinking his state’s own legislation on religious freedom. The Republican governor of the “Natural State” said Wednesday he would not sign Arkansas’s own religious freedom bill, which currently sits on his desk, until lawmakers make changes that would allow it to more closely reflect the ethos of the federal law.

Arkansas’s pending legislation, like that of the now-infamous Indiana law, would essentially allow businesses the right to “religious freedom.” Civil rights groups say both laws would permit businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson came under fire earlier this year for allowing SB 202—a law that bans cities from passing laws to expand on the state’s anti-discrimination legislation—to pass, even though it was heavy criticized by LGBTQ groups. Hutchinson, however, never signed the bill, which indicated he was unhappy with its contents.

It appears as though he’s now looking to make amends for past wrongs—he also said he’s contemplating issuing an executive order asserting Arkansas is a “place of tolerance.” Hutchinson said his own son asked him not to sign the new religious freedom bill.

“The issue has become divisive because our nation remains split on how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions,” he said in his press conference. “It has divided families, and there is clearly a generational gap on this issue.”

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