BREAKING: Hutchinson won’t sign Arkansas ‘religious freedom’ bill

Screen shot 2015-04-01 at 11.24.21 AM

Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced that he will not sign the “religious freedom” bill passed by lawmakers in his state last night, saying that he will instead send the measure back to the state Legislature for changes to make sure that it mirrors a federal law already in place, CNN is reporting.

Hutchinson said he made his decision because he wants Arkansas to be “known as a state that does not discriminate but understands tolerance.”

He also said he is considering issuing an executive order than bans discrimination in the state’s workforce.

Hutchinson had initially said he would sign the religious freedom bill into law. His change of heart came following the firestorm that has erupted over a similar bill signed into law last week by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and after the CEO of WalMart, Arkansas’ largest business, issued a statement urging Hutchinson to veto the bill.

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.”

CNN notes that Hutchinson said his own son, signed a petition urging him not to sign the bill.

—  Tammye Nash

Hawaii boycott?

Gov. Linda Lingle

After Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill, the San Francisco Chronicle asked the question “Should civil union veto mean Hawaii boycott?”

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has prepared the state’s largest industry for the reaction with its warning, “Civil unions backlash begins.”

Most of the blame for the veto has been heaped on Hawaii’s Mormon population. Though just 5 percent of the population, Oahu is home to a branch of Brigham Young University and the church as always been active in Hawaii politics.

The blame, however, should be placed directly on the state’s Jewish Republican governor. Though same-sex marriage is performed in most branches of Judaism, Lingle belongs to the small, right-wing Chabad movement.

The Honolulu newspaper said a boycott wouldn’t hurt people and businesses in the state that support civil unions. More of them should have lobbied the governor to sign. An airline that’s a member of an LGBT Chamber of Commerce could have warned that a boycott might mean fewer flights a week to her state. Large hotel chains that market to the LGBT community could have lobbied the governor to support the bill. Restaurants, stores and other businesses that have relied, in part, on business from the LGBT community might have made more of an effort to let the governor know that discrimination doesn’t create a good environment for travel.

Rabbi Peter Schaktman from the state’s largest synagogue made his opinions clear. Schaktman was a Houston rabbi before moving to Honolulu in 2005.

“People who oppose civil unions from a religious perspective are asking the state to enforce their version of morality on their behalf,” he told the governor.

His synagogue’s website continues to invite same-sex and opposite-sex couples to celebrate their weddings at Temple Emanu-El.

—  David Taffet