The Slatest

Arkansas Governor Will Not Sign Religious Freedom Bill

Asa Hutchinson.

Win McNamee/Getty

On Tuesday, Arkansas’ legislature passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a measure with the same name—and the same controversial clauses potentially permitting businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers—as an Indiana law that’s also been in the news. Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has now announced, however, that he will not sign the bill as it was submitted to him.

Hutchinson was not specific at a Wednesday press conference about what changes would have to be made to the law to make it acceptable to him, but said he wanted it to more closely match the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act—which, unlike Indiana’ and Arkansas’ bills, did not include provisions that would protect businesses against claims of discrimination by LGBT customers they refused to serve. From the AP:

“What is important from an Arkansas standpoint is one, we get the right balance and secondly, we make sure that we communicate we’re not going to be a state that fails to recognize the diversity of our workplace, our economy and our future,” Hutchinson said at a news conference at the state Capitol …

Echoing the reaction to Indiana’s law, Hutchinson has faced pressure from the state’s top employers, including retail giant Wal-Mart, which complained that the measure was discriminatory and would stifle economic development. Little Rock’s mayor, the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas-based data services company Acxiom all urged the governor to reject the measure in recent days.

Hutchinson noted that his son Seth had signed a petition opposing the bill.