Arkansas passed a religious freedom bill on Tuesday that is similar to an Indiana law that has faced national backlash for legalizing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The bill cleared the Arkansas Legislature and now heads to the governor’s desk, where it is expected to be signed. Like the Indiana law, the Arkansas legislation allows a person who feels his or her exercise of religion has been “substantially burdened” to cite that argument as a claim or defense in a private lawsuit. The legislation also grants corporations the right to religious freedom. This language is not in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and critics say it could be used to override existing anti-discrimination protections.
“The Arkansas and Indiana bills are virtually identical in terms of language and intent,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at the Human Rights Campaign. “They place LGBT people, people of color, religious minorities, women and many more people at risk of discrimination.”
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola has already sent a letter to the governor asking him to veto the legislation.
The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce issued a statement opposing HB1228, saying that the legislation is “bad for business and bad for Arkansas.”
(from Huffington Post)