Compromise religion legislation won't bring LGBT equality | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Compromise religion legislation won't bring LGBT equality

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 7:29 AM

  • Brian Chilson
A withering round of national publicity and a belated outcry from powerful corporations brought Gov. Asa Hutchinson to heel on his professed support for legislation intended to establish religion as a pretext to discriminate in non-religious activities against gay people.

The result is a hurry-up compromise passed by the Senate last night and headed to the House today to have Arkansas adopt a "religious freedom" bill that closely tracks national legislation passed years ago to protect religious practices of some minority religions. It was NOT passed to allow religious groups to do harm to others in everyday activities, as the Arkansas bill was designed to do.

Here's the bill as it stands. (And the other, identical bill, which might also move forward.)

It protects the "free exercise" or religion from substantial government burden.

It says nothing about discrimination against gay people. Should it pass, the law will remain as the law in Arkansas stands today. You may legally discriminate against gay people in employment, housing or public accommodation because sexual orientation enjoys no civil rights protection in Arkansas.

That is the way the controlling majority of the legislature wants it. That's why they earlier passed — and Gov. Hutchinson did not veto — a bill to prohibit local governments from extending civil rights to gay people. That's why a bill to include gay people under the state civil rights statute was rudely dumped this session.

Hutchinson created this week's drama by pushing Democratic Sen. David Burnett to allow the anti-gay bill out of committee in its original form. He said repeatedly that he supported the bill and would sign it. He did so in obedience to the Family Council, a Souther Poverty Law Center-identified hate group that holds discrimination against gay people high on its list of organizing principles, along with stripping women of medical autonomy. 

This normally would have happened with little more than a whimper from the usual suspects (we've been inveighing against this bill for weeks). But a similar bill in Indiana produced a national firestorm that spread into Arkansas. Faced with universal condemnation from Silicon Valley and other high-tech giants — not to mention Walmart — Hutchinson folded. He's no George Wallace, in the end, but he also deserves no trophy.

Gays remain second-class citizens in Arkansas. But if the House today completes action on a less odious version of a bill aimed at keeping them there, it is a victory. Because it will be a symbol that it is becoming less acceptable in polite business and society circles to wear your prejudice on your sleeve and even put them into law. Racial intolerance still lives in the U.S., despite the civil rights movement. But you don't hear the N-word regularly in public discourse any longer. And the law prevents those (like the founder of the college from which Asa Hutchinson graduated) who believe the Bible demands racial separation from applying that belief in employment, housing and wedding cake baking.

Tags: , , , , ,

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • At least two sites under consideration for immigrant housing in Arkansas

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson revealed yesterday that a second unnamed location, in addition to Little Rock Air Force Base, was being considered for immigrant detention facilities.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Military lawyers drafted for border immigration duty

    Rachel Maddow reported on MSNBC last night that the Justice Department had requested — and the Defense Department agreed — military lawyers to handle the crush of immigration work on the border. How about adding some Arkies on the temporary duty list?
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • LR charter school application withdrawn for this year

    Friendship Aspire Academy has withdrawn its request to move up plans to open a charter school in Little Rock by a year to take advantage of a vacant building being remodeled by the Walton Family Foundation for another charter operator that withdrew.
    • Jun 20, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Recent Comments



© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation