Arkansas Erupts In Protests As The State Passes A ‘Religious Freedom Bill’ Similar To Indiana

On Tuesday, Arkansas lawmakers made the decision to pass a religious freedom bill similar to the one that was recently passed in Indiana. Lawmakers in Arkansas are now facing the same amount of backlash and protests that have erupted in Indiana since Governor Pence signed their new bill. People in both states are concerned that the passing of these new religious freedom acts will allow for companies large and small to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.

According to FOX News, the bill was given final approval by the Republican dominated House of Representatives and will now go to Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has said he will sign the bill into law. The bill would prevent local and state governments from infringing on upon religious beliefs without a “compelling” interest.

The new bill has already been met with a significant amount of protest and backlash from companies, sports figures, celebrities, and the people of Arkansas. Proponents of the bill say that it is not a discriminatory bill, but protesters say that the bill is going to allow for discrimination against gays and lesbians. USA Today reports that Walmart has been incredibly outspoken against the bill, even issuing a statement about bill HB1228 on Twitter that was written by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

“Every day in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits of diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers, and communities we serve. It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual. Today’s passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold. For these reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation.”

Mark Stodola, Mayor of Little Rock is also an opponent of this bill and is urging Governor Hutchinson to veto the new proposal. In a press release, Stodola stated, “Any piece of legislation that is so divisive cannot possibly be good for the state of Arkansas and its people.”

Indiana and Arkansas are not the only states to have such laws. The Inquisitr previously reported that advocates for these kinds of laws believe that businesses should not be forced to have to deal with someone if they feel that doing so would infringe on their personal religious beliefs. For example, if a gay or lesbian couple comes into a bakery and wants to order a wedding cake, but the business owners do not support gay marriage as a part of their personal religious beliefs, then they are not obligated to bake that wedding cake. The new bill also prevents those same business owners from being sued.

It’s very hard to believe that these kinds of laws will not lead to widespread discrimination, but it seems as though these bills are not going to go through without a fight. Protesters filled the capital building in Arkansas to protest, and just like in Indiana, the possibility of this religious freedom bill passing has sparked outrage all over the state and nationwide.

[Photo courtesy of Devon Sayers/CNN]