Hundreds gather at Arkansas Capitol over religious freedom bill

Demonstrators in favor of a religious freedom bill that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson wanted rewritten, foreground, gather at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., as opponents, left, demonstrate against the bill, Thursday, April 2, 2015.

Demonstrators in favor of a religious freedom bill that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson wanted rewritten, foreground, gather at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., as opponents, left, demonstrate against the bill, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Danny Johnston, AP

Demonstrators in favor of a religious freedom bill that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson wanted rewritten, foreground, gather at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., as opponents, left, demonstrate against the bill, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Danny Johnston, AP

Demonstrators in favor of a religious freedom bill that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson wanted rewritten, foreground, gather at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., as opponents, left, demonstrate against the bill, Thursday, April 2, 2015.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Hundreds of supporters and opponents of Arkansas’ religious conscience bill that has been criticized as anti-gay stood divided at the state Capitol steps.

One group urged Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto any and all proposals to prohibit state and local governments from infringing upon someone’s religious beliefs and held signs reading “Arkansans are equal” and “Love one another.” They say the bill would sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Another crowd held prayers and said people of all faiths need protection and that the change wouldn’t harm the gay community.

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There was little overlap between the groups, except brief outbursts from opponents during speeches downplaying potential discrimination as a side-effect of the bill.

Hutchinson says he wants the Legislature to consider changes to the bill that was sent to him.

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