It’s All The Rage: Arkansas Joins Indiana In The Abyss Of “Religious Freedom” Bills

Feature photo via Asa Hutchinson’s official Twitter

On the heels of blistering backlash against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Indiana lawmakers approved an adaptation of their discriminatory law this afternoon, while Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson signed a similar bill into law.

As Rachel pointed out this morning, Arkansas’ new bill is tweaked version of the on the one that passed in the state House on Tuesday, but fearing public outcry and economic repercussions like those facing the state of Indiana, Hutchinson asked his legislature to make the bill mirror a similar one passed in 1993 and signed into law under President Clinton. His own son and Walmart — Walmart, okay? — asked Hutchinson not to sign the original bill. The modified bill states that the government cannot “substantially burden” a person or business when they are practicing their “free exercise of religion.”

The law does not specifically ban discrimination of gay people, however, so LGBT rights organizations aren’t pleased with the minor revisions. The Human Rights Campaign released an immediate statement, saying:

Though an improvement, the legislation can still be used as a weapon to discriminate against LGBT people, people of color, minority faiths, women and other Arkansans at risk. The earlier legislation, H.B. 1228, is still on Governor Hutchinson’s desk, and HRC calls on the Arkansas House to recall that hateful bill immediately. HRC also calls on Governor Hutchinson to make good on his suggestion yesterday and issue an executive order protecting state employees from discrimination.

In Indiana, the House and the Senate tag-teamed to “fix” their religious freedom bill, at the behest of Governor Mike Pence, who also continued to insist there was nothing wrong with the bill he signed earlier in the week. The new draft states that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be used to refuse service to gay people or other minority groups. Pence has not signed it yet, and his office has refused comment on whether or not he intends to do so.

But most LGBT advocates feel like only a full repeal of the law will do. Angie’s List, an Indiana-based business that has put a $40 million expansion on hold because of the new law, has been a strong opponent of RFRA and isn’t happy with the new wording.

Our position is that this “fix” is insufficient. There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana. Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here. Our employees deserve to live, work and travel with open accommodations in any part of the state.

Hillary Clinton is unimpressed with both states.

In this morning’s Daily Fix, Rachel talked about how North Carolina has momentarily shelved a similar religious freedom law, and is probably waiting to see how Arkansas and Indiana’s fates shake out before they proceed.

The next few weeks should be interesting.

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter, and Instagram.

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16 Comments

  1. I am surprised that non-Christian religious leaders aren’t vocal about this(or at least I haven’t seen much about it) as it can affects us nn-Christians just as much too. Like who’s to say they won’t deny me service for being Jewish and not believing in Jesus(unless they notice the bra im wearing under my shirt first and deny me service for being queer)?

  2. “Like IN law, AR bill goes beyond protecting religion, would permit unfair discrimination against #LGBT Americans. I urge Governor to veto.”

    Well Ms. Clinton, I urge you to change your position that while you now support same sex marriage on a personal level that states should it should be left to the states whether or not they recognize it.

  3. I need to take a class on articulating Political rage. I have Republican friends who are kind, intelligent, and generous. So i can’t for the life of me understand why they would support a political party that treats them like toothless illiterate hillbillies. These people attended my gay wedding, and god parent my child. I regularly have to block their posts on FB because they are fear mongering, objectify women, or outright racist.

    How do I speak my truth to these people? How do I articulate my rage at what their political party is doing to the LGTBQ community? Even if I wasn’t part of that community I would be outraged by what’s happening.

    The Republican party, over the last 10 years, went from being laughable to being disgusting.

    • Only the last 10 years!?

      In all seriousness, I understand what you mean about not knowing how to express political rage constructively. I don’t have any great answers, but it nice to see your at least looking for them. At least your TRYING to find ways of telling your Republican friends how the community is affected. Sometimes it feel like no else believes it’s worth the effort.

      I guess the best way to start by ask challenging questions. Something like: do you realize there’s a general perception among the LGBTQ community that GPO stands for Gays are Only Pests or God Ordains are Policy? Or maybe just ask if they think the Republican Party ever considers the concerns of gay voters.

    • I think (for me) the most effective means of articulating Political rage is to remove the politics and talk person to person. I don’t think it is a party issue (Democrat/Republican) I think it is an ideological issue… if that makes any sense? What we want to address is a flawed ideology and not the party itself.

      It is fair to say that I am politically “confused” and think both parties bring something worthwhile to the table. For a productive discussion and ability to articulate your disagreements I think you need to be able to articulate your respect. I loooove to disagree with someone that demonstrates the ability to respect my opinion even if they don’t personally agree!

      Hope that is a somewhat helpful answer to your question!

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