Even The Governor's Son Asked Him Not To Sign This Law

Photo: Francis Dean/REX USA.
Update: Making it personal seemed to work for Gov. Hutchinson. At a press conference, he said that even his own son had signed the petition asking him to veto the religious freedom bill. "This has divided families," he said, "and there is clearly a generation gap." Hutchinson also said that he has asked for "accommodations and changes be made" to the bill before he will sign it into law. 

Originally published April 1, 2015, at 11:30 a.m.

When even Walmart thinks you're about to do something inhumane, you might want to rethink your plans.

That's where Arkansas lawmakers have found themselves on Wednesday after passing an expansive "religious freedom" bill that's nearly identical to the Indiana law that has sparked massive protests, boycotts, and outrage.

Walmart posted a message to its Twitter account Tuesday urging Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the bill, saying it "threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of 
Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold."
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Photo: Francis Dean/REX USA.
The bill now goes to Hutchinson, who's said he will sign it. Just yesterday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said at a press conference that he wanted to change the law in his state to make it clear that discrimination of any kind is illegal. The Indianapolis Star reports that lawmakers have already written a clarification that would protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Taking a stand against new religious freedom laws, which could allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers, or as journalist Erin Matson suggests, allow a taxi driver to refuse to take a woman to a reproductive health clinic, is turning out to be a savvy business move. So, Walmart's statement should be taken with a bit of skepticism.

The company was not vocally opposed to the religious freedom bill before it became clear that a massive backlash was brewing, and LGBT consumers are a sought-after and growing market, both inside and outside states with "religious freedom" bills. The company — long based in the town of Bentonville — isn't threatening to relocate out of the state.

Opposition in Arkansas isn't limited to one of the world's biggest companies; Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola asked the Governor to reject the bill because it is too divisive. And, he has good reason to worry: Unlike in Indiana, where local governments can fight back against the state law by passing anti-discrimination rules, it's illegal for cities or counties in Arkansas to pass anti-discrimination statutes that go further than state law.

In the face of wide-reaching protests against Indiana's law, legal experts have pointed out that Arkansas and Indiana's versions are much broader. But, the fight against the Arkansas bill is not over yet. Hutchinson has not signed it into law, which means it is still possible to contact his office (by phone at 501-682-2345 or by email) and ask him to veto it.
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