Republican Arkansas Governor Asa
Hutchinson says his state's image was helped by how it dealt with a
“religious freedom” bill which critics argued could be used to
refuse service to gay men and lesbians.
The bill, HB 1228, sought to prohibit
any state and local laws that “burden” a person's ability to
follow his or her religious beliefs without a “compelling”
interest and defined “person” to include a company or
Hutchinson had previously said that he
would sign the bill. But that was before passage of a similar
measure in Indiana attracted nationwide attention, forcing Republican
Governor Mike Pence to ask for a “fix,” and Arkansas-based
Walmart, the world's largest retailer, weighed in against the bill.
Hutchinson asked lawmakers to narrow
the bill's scope, addressing only actions by the government, not by
businesses or individuals. He signed the revised bill on Thursday.
Arkansas governors sign revised “religious freedom” bills.)
“I think it enhanced religious
freedom in this state,” Hutchinson
said during a television appearance. “I think it showed that
we want to be balanced and recognize the diversity of the workforce
and American culture. I think our standing really in how we handled
this really made us look good on the world stage.”
LGBT rights advocates have called on
Hutchinson to sign an executive order banning workplace
discrimination by state agencies on the basis of sexual orientation.
When asked whether he would pursue such an order, Hutchinson answered
that he would not.