Citizens First Congress calls on Arkansans to sign petition urging veto of HB 1228 | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 27, 2015

Citizens First Congress calls on Arkansans to sign petition urging veto of HB 1228

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 12:57 PM

  • AGAINST DISCRIMINATION: In all its forms.

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Citizens First Congress are circulating a petition asking Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto HB 1228, the bill that would allow acts of discrimination in the name of religious freedom.

HB 1228 passed the Senate this morning, as David Koon reported earlier, and now heads to the governor's desk.

Hutchinson has already said he'll sign the bill. That doesn't mean the petition is meaningless, though. There's a lot of outrage over HB 1228, both from within the state and from elsewhere. The more voices and names on the record as against this legislation, the better. 

Here's the letter from the Panel and CFC:

March 27, 2015
Dear Governor Hutchinson,

We ask you veto HB1228 because it legalizes discrimination again in Arkansas.

Supporters of this bad policy claim it allows discrimination solely against people perceived to be gay or lesbian. That would be bad enough but the reality is that nearly every Arkansan could be discriminated against under this dangerous legislation.

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel was founded in 1963 by mothers working to break down racial and religious barriers that divide our schools and communities. The Arkansas Citizens First Congress was founded in 1998 to unite Arkansans from all parts of the state and walks of life to make our communities stronger. We represent more than 28,000 Arkansans. Our state is a melting pot of different races, religions, beliefs and walks of life. We are strongest when we respect and celebrate that diversity instead of allowing one group to try to achieve dominion over another.

Our members personally remember when Arkansans were routinely denied employment, education and even jobs based on a bogus religious pretext that some human beings are inferior to others. People of color, women and Arkansans from some religious traditions faced the worst of this legacy.

Arkansas has worked hard to overcome our worst days of intolerance. Arkansas has made incredible progress towards a more open, diverse and inclusive society. Our families, our communities, our economy and our culture are all stronger for it.

HB1228 threatens to return Arkansas to our darkest days of discrimination against a wide range of Arkansans. People hiding behind a guise of religious belief could legally discriminate against others based on their perceived age, gender, disability, dress, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs and nearly anything else.

If HB1228 were truly about respecting religious liberty and diversity of viewpoints we would be lined up to support it. Our founding mothers in 1963 believed everyone is free to be who they are and practice their religion AND that we must be tolerant of ALL others doing the same. But HB1228 is the opposite of religious liberty — it is legalized discrimination plain and simple.

HB1228 will hurt our families and communities and be a major barrier to economic development. Employers are pulling out of other states who’ve adopted this legalized discrimination and we need every job we can get right here in Arkansas. Walmart opposes this legislation and other employers have already said they will not expand in Arkansas if HB1228 becomes law.

Arkansas policies should be focused on expanding opportunities for all, not limiting opportunities for people we may not like. We would welcome a study commission that looks at barriers to opportunity in the Natural State and make recommendations on creating a stronger, more inclusive Arkansas where everyone has an equal shot at opportunity. We have entrenched income and wealth gaps in Arkansas based on gender and race. We have massive gaps in educational opportunity based on income, zip code and race. We have massive regional divides on infrastructure like transportation and internet access. Our economic development strategies have ignored small business and rural communities.

We urge you to reject HB1228 and look forward to working with you and our legislators to ensure that Arkansas remains a welcoming land of opportunity for all.

Curtis Mangrum, Panel Board Chair
William El Amin, CFC Co-Chair
Mark Robertson, CFC Co-chair

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