It hasn’t exactly moved north of the Mason Dixon, but Arkansas is today much more progressive than that regressive typecast of a southern state. At least much more than the midwest’s Indiana, that is, and because Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said on April 1 that he would not sign the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” approved by Arkansas’ state legislature the day before. And while he acknowledges influence from his family, business in the state may have persuaded his position, too.
At a Wednesday morning press conference (see video below), Hutchinson said:
The issue has become divisive because our nation remains split on how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions. It has divided families, and there is clearly a generational gap on this issue.
He cited his son, Seth Hutchinson, who had signed a public petition asking for veto, as a primary influence on his decision.
My son Seth signed the petition asking me, Dad, the governor, to veto this bill. And he gave me permission to make that reference, and it shows that families – and there’s a generational difference of opinion on these issues.
Hutchinson has previously acknowledged his son to be a young progressive, as Seth’s occupation of labor organizer indicates. That political difference has never interfered with their father-son relationship, however, the governor has said.
Retail giant Walmart, headquartered in Arkansas, could have influenced Hutchinson’s bill rejection, too. While normally regarded to be anti-progressive, the corporation’s CEO Doug McMillon released a statement, including via Twitter, on March 31 calling for the governor to veto H.B. 1228.
Another major Arkansas employer issued formal statement against the bill on the preceding Monday. Little Rock-headquartered Axciom Corporation said:
The bill inflicts pain on some of our citizens and disgrace upon us all.
While not exactly vetoed, the bill was returned to state legislature for modifications that will make H.B. 1228 read similar to federal law, which only protects against religious discrimination from the government. Like the much-criticized law recently passed in Indiana, however, Arkansas’ version loosely allowed discrimination instead of protecting from it.
Here’s video of Gov. Hutchinson’s April 1 press conference: