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article imageArkansas backed down on its controversial 'religious freedom' law

By Business Insider     Apr 1, 2015 in Politics
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Wednesday that he isn't happy with his state's controversial "religious freedom" legislation and wants the state legislature to "recall" the bill and tweak it before he signs it.
The legislation has been in the spotlight this week after a similar law in Indiana sparked a major backlash. Critics say the legislation encourages anti-gay discrimination while supporters contend it protects religious freedom.
Hutchinson was careful in his criticism of the legislation, however. saying his main objection was that the Arkansas bill did not "mirror" the less-controversial federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that passed in 1993.
"We wanted to have it crafted similar to what is at the federal level. And to do that though, changes needed to be made. The bill that is on my desk at the present time does not precisely mirror the federal law," Hutchinson said.
The governor's press conference came one day after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) held his own event to defiantly defend his own state's "religious freedom" legislation, which he signed into law last week. Although he stood by the law, Pence said he hopes to clarify it to make clear it does not promote discrimination.
On Tuesday, Arkansas's lower house passed the controversial legislation, which had already been approved by the state senate. According to NPR, Hutchinson previously said he would sign the bill, HB1228.
But Hutchinson insisted he had only agreed to pass a bill similar to the federal guidelines, not that exact law. Despite his concerns, Hutchinson also disputed the idea that the legislation on his desk was especially controversial.
"This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial. But these are not ordinary times. This bill is not really complicated," he said.
Many business leaders were among those who spoke out against the law in Indiana. Hutchinson was beginning to see a similar backlash. The CEO of Wal-Mart, a major Arkansas-based business, passionately pleaded with Hutchinson to veto the bill.
"Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve. It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual," CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. "Today's passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold."
The Arkansas legislative leaders who spoke on Wednesday seemed agreeable to Hutchinson's desire to amend the law.
This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2015.
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