An Indiana-style anti-gay bill which allows businesses to discriminate based on religious beliefs has just passed the Arkansas Senate. Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) presented the bill Friday, telling the chamber it is constitutional and that 38 states have similar legislation.
A gay-rights group is warning of economic consequences if it becomes law and so far, that’s not faring well for Indiana after that state passed the law.
Arkansas Online reports:
Three Democratic senators from Little Rock, David Johnson, Joyce Elliott and Linda Chesterfield, spoke against the bill.
Elliott read a statement from a citizen she didn’t identify calling the measure unconstitutional and suggested it could lead to a business choosing not to serve her teenage nephew because he is gay and the business owner opposes homosexuality on religious grounds.
“Excluding folks is not the way to go,” she said. “I ask you to vote no.”
Johnson said the legislation would create a “huge gray area” and that it has created issues in other places. He said he knew of one case where a similar law allowed a person to violate a noise ordinance because he claimed he was doing so for religious purposes.
“It will employ attorneys for the next decade,” Johnson said of the bill. “It’s wrong for us to do.”
“Having grown up in the south all of my life, I know that religious freedom has meant that slavery was OK, it has meant that Jim Crow was OK, it has meant that it was OK to keep people from achieving that which they deserved,” Chesterfield said. “And it is impossible for me having suffered from that religious freedom in a negative way to fail to say that we are better than this and that we have come a long way and we still have a long way to go.”
Members of the Human Rights Campaign said at a news conference Thursday at the Capitol that the bill goes further and would allow discrimination.
Chad Griffin, the group’s president, urged Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the bill if it made it to his desk, and pointed to companies including Apple and Wal-Mart who have expressed concerns about it and warned that it would hurt the state economically.
However, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that he intends to sign the bill.
H/T: Friend of FON’s R.J. Carter, who you can find at Critical Blast.
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