While Indiana Wants a Fix to “Religious Freedom” Law, Arkansas’ Legislature Sends Similar Bill to Governor’s Desk April 1, 2015

While Indiana Wants a Fix to “Religious Freedom” Law, Arkansas’ Legislature Sends Similar Bill to Governor’s Desk

Last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (below) signed into law a bill ostensibly designed to protect religious freedom. As it happens, this was “religious freedom” in the conservative Christian sense of the word — a sort of Orwellian spin on freedom that posits that all people are free, but some people (namely, believers) are more free and can consequently get out of whichever laws they don’t like, as long as they really believe they should be exempt.

The bill was not-so-secretly intended to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers. Predictably, decent people were outraged, and condemnation poured in — from sources as varied as gay rights activist and celebrity George Takei to the leaders of Apple and Walmart. The list of those opposing the move is pretty substantial, with the list growing longer each day.

Apparently realizing that faith-based discrimination against LGBT people wasn’t the greatest PR move, Pence and his defenders began to play down the law’s effects. Even though it’s very different from religious liberty laws in other states and it was pretty clearly intended to allow discrimination against the LGBT community.

The response wasn’t all critical, though. A number of potential Republican presidential candidates were happy to pipe up with their support of the measure.

They might be interested to learn, then, that Gov. Pence seems to want to walk back the discriminatory nature of the law he just signed (or at least give that impression).

“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

The governor, although not ready to provide details on what the new bill will say, said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week.

Considering Pence’s history of mendacity on the topic, we’ll have to wait to see if this “clarification” truly rectifies the issue. Hopefully the backlash Indiana has received as a result of this law will convince him and the legislature to act in good faith.

It’s a lesson that seems to have escaped Republicans in Arkansas, since they just passed a similar measure in their own state and rebuffed attempts “to add a clause to the bill that would explicitly bar discrimination of gays and lesbians.”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson indicated that he will sign it if it “reaches my desk in similar form as to what has been passed in 20 other states.” With that statement, Hutchinson seems to have left himself enough room to veto the bill, should he choose to do so… it will be interesting to see if Hutchinson has learned anything from Gov. Pence’s self-imposed predicament, or if he will follow the path of his colleagues in the legislature.

(Image via Gil C / Shutterstock.com)

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