Apparently Arkansas lawmakers don’t follow the news, or perhaps they just don’t care that they’re about to face the same withering shit-storm that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is dealing with. After all, when even NASCAR says that Indiana’s discrimination bill is a really bad move, you know you’ve goofed up big time.
Now, even as Indiana is trying desperately to backpedal and add language to the law to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community, Arkansas is plunging ahead with their own legislation that resembles the same awful bill that Indiana passed.
From The Hill:
The Arkansas legislature on Tuesday approved a religious freedom bill that is similar to the Indiana law that’s facing a backlash from business leaders and civil rights groups.
The state House passed the bill by a 67-21 margin, sending it to the governor’s office.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is expected to sign the bill, which says that “a state action shall not substantially burden a person’s right to exercise of religion,” unless it is “essential to further a compelling government interest” and is the least restrictive action possible.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBT-rights organization, has criticized the bill as “Indiana-style,” a reference to the Hoosier State’s controversial religious freedom bill that reignited the debate over these laws. (Source)
Arkansas should know better than this, but conservative lawmakers have hitched their wagons to the culture wars and declared that
Christianity religion in America is under attack from the evil forces of secularism and atheists like myself. They’ve had to present very little in the way of policy and solutions, especially in rural areas where they’ve catered to older, disenfranchised conservatives who left the Democrats after the Civil Rights Act was passed. Ever since the Republican Party aligned itself with fundamentalist Christians back in the 1980s and began being pulled far to the right, the politicians who have run on the GOP ticket have almost invariably had to run on a platform of God, guns and gays in order to get the nomination – even if it costs them the general election as Mitt Romney found out back in 2012.
It’s also angering some pretty big companies like Wal-Mart, Apple and PayPal. According to the Human Rights Campaign, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin blasted Arkansas lawmakers for passing their version of Indiana’s “religious freedom” bill:
“Legislation like that passed in Indiana on Thursday and before Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson now aren’t just discriminatory against LGBT Americans and their families – they discourage job growth and stifle economic development,” said Levchin. “I have an obligation to my employees as a CEO to ensure their workplace is safe and welcoming for everyone. As I said on Thursday, the Indiana bill is a fundamental step backwards and for any state such as Arkansas that hopes to attract high paying high-tech jobs — I sincerely hope they don’t go down that same dangerous road. I am joining the CEOs of Salesforce, Yelp, Apple, and others in evaluating our relationships with states that have or are considering enacting legislation that permits discrimination against any of our employees or customers.” (Source)
Republicans must learn that they cannot serve two masters forever. At some point they must choose whether they want to continue to be the party that stands in the way of economic prosperity, or if they want to shake off their unholy alliance with socially conservative extremists, even if it means losing a few elections. They also need to realize that while older voters may continue to hold on to their hatred and intolerance for the LGBT community, younger generations are moving away from that backwards mentality, and away from the Republican Party. Perhaps someone needs to get that memo to Jeb Bush and other 2016 Republican candidates – or on second thought, maybe not.
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