Some questions for Gov. Asa Hutchinson | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 30, 2015

Some questions for Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 7:17 AM

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Checking in from afar, I'm compelled to add a few cents worth to the vigorous coverage the Times has been bringing to coming passage of HB 1228, which establishes a religious pretext to discriminate against gay people.

Can we agree now that the moderate image that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has cultivated was only for show? He is not catering to the fringe of his party. He is leading it, here by turning the critical vote of Democratic Sen. David Burnett for favors not yet revealed to get HB 1228 out of committee.

Hutchinson has avoided in-depth interviews on the subject, preferring to hide behind a statement that religion must be protected in Arkansas. He's never said against what or where it has been infringed. The leading proponents of the discrimination law rely on the mythical wedding cake baker. No Cakes for Queers. It is a poor rock on which to rest legal discrimination across the full spectrum of the law.

Some questions I'd like to ask:

* Does Hutchinson, who rarely lists his Bob Jones University degree on his resume these days, no longer believe in the religious justification that his alma mater  used to discriminate against people of color? If not, what changed his mind? Does he see no parallel in those claiming today a religious right to discriminate against gay people?

* Would a hotel keeper, on the ground of religion, be legally able to deny service to a gay person, or a gay newlywed couple?

* Would a restaurant owner, on the ground of religion, be legally able to deny a plate of fried chicken to a gay couple?

* Would an employer — and this is where the rubber really meets the road — be able to refuse employment or terminate employment on account of a person's sexual orientation or plans to wed?

* Does Arkansas's late arrival to the discrimination statute race not present a continuing symbol of Arkansas as part of the backwash of history, rather than a fresh tide? (The fact that more care about Indiana says a lot.)

* Do leaders of Apple, Microsoft, Yelp, Angie's List, Walmart and virtually all Fortune 500 countries not register on the avowed economic development governor when they deplore legalized discrimination statutes?

* Where are the "leaders" of Arkansas? The ministers and Dustin McDaniel and others who appeared Sunday in opposition to this legislation did their part. But where are the bankers, chamber of commerce executives and major corporate leaders?  Their silence speaks volumes, and not only about civil rights. It speaks forcefully about the broader political situation. The Republican Party has moved forcefully to consolidate its political gains in Arkansas. It brooks no dissent. I received a copy the other day of the Republican leadership's daily cheat sheet — a voting guide for its members. But it's mostly superfluous. But for rare internal differences and non-controversial marginalia the guide is simple: vote FOR Republican legislation, AGAINST Democrats' bills.

It would be one thing if the governor was just going along with soviet-style voting. But he has emerged as a leader. I look forward to his proud announcement of an industrial location by a business that actively sought out Arkansas because we believe and practice discrimination. (The echo in that last phrase of a favorite saying of the segregationist South is intentional.)

PS — The REPUBLICAN mayor of Indianapolis has spoken out strongly and organized business opposition to the gay discrimination law in Indiana. Strong Mayor Mark Stodola, where are you? And what about your pals at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, given an annual taxpayer subsidy and working with $20 million in additional tax money to attract tech businesses. The very sorts of businesses that are decrying laws like those passed and about to pass in Arkansas.

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