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Hutchinson’s comments came a day after he allowed legislation to become law that bans local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation or gender identity. Opponents of the measure had urged Hutchinson to veto it after he said he was concerned about it infringing on local control.
Both bills were pushed in response to a Fayetteville ordinance that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The city’s voters repealed the ordinance in December.
Gay rights groups have shifted their attention to the “conscience protection” measure, calling it another thinly veiled attempt to endorse bias against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Article continues below“HB1228 is equally disturbing and allows any person to claim religious belief as their grounds for discriminatory acts,” Kendra Johnson, state director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement issued Monday. “Simply put, state senators should erase it from the legislative agenda.”
The measure was expected to go before a Senate panel on Wednesday. Its sponsor said he planned to talk with Hutchinson about his concerns.
“I know the bill real well and I know Asa, where he stands on the issue,” Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger of Hindsville said. “I think in the end he’ll side with protecting people’s religious freedom.”