Arkansas lawmakers pass 'religious freedom' act

Arkansas lawmakers pass 'religious freedom' act

LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas lawmakers have approved House Bill 1228, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

According to the Arkansas State Legislature's website, the bill passed at 3:16 p.m. Tuesday after a third reading by a vote of 67-21, with 11 members not voting.

Among those who did not vote on the bill was State Representative Joe Jett of Success. Representative Mary Broadaway of Paragould voted against the bill.

Supporters like Representative Dwight Tosh said this bill protects religious freedom and there shouldn't be a law that conflicts with a person's religious beliefs.

People in the LGBT community told Region 8 News that their biggest concerns are not being able to receive services and the state's economy.

Joseph Ruckas, the faculty advisor of ASU's Gay Straight Alliance, said the LGBT community couldn't take the chance with the bill.

"If it is going to be a what if, why not err on the side of caution, alright?" Ruckas said. "And with the reaction we have seen here with Indiana, and I've actually read press accounts where they put Indiana and Arkansas in the same sentence. So that's not a what if on the economic side."

Other members of the alliance had similar feelings. Harley Mayall said tolerance is the one thing people need to strive for.

"My dad brought me up to understand that everybody should have the right to live the way they want," Mayall said. "Whatever makes you happy."

Many people in Jonesboro said they did not have an opinion on the bill. Those who did, said the bill opens the door to discriminatory practices.

Region 8 News reached out to many churches in the area but no one would give a comment.  The ACLU of Arkansas has released this response.

Arkansas-based WalMart took to Twitter Tuesday over the bill. They've asked Governor Hutchinson to veto House Bill 1228.

In part, they tweeted, "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."

You can read the tweet in full here.

You can read House Bill 1228 in its entirety here.

The bill now goes to Governor Asa Hutchinson's desk for his signature.

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