The religious freedom issue isn’t going away anytime soon -- and neither is the corporate backlash.
Arkansas’ Republican-controlled state Senate approved a measure Friday that critics warn will sanction discrimination, particularly against LGBT people, on religious grounds. The legislation -- House Bill 1228 -- now goes back to the Republican-controlled state House for a concurrence vote, and then onto the desk of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said on Thursday that he would sign the bill.
The development comes one day after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, also a Republican, signed into a law a nearly identical religious freedom measure that unleashed a flood of criticism from celebrities, politicians and business leaders responsible for pumping millions of dollars into the Hoosier State’s economy. In less than 24 hours after Pence signed the bill, #BoycottIndiana became one of the top trending hashtags in the U.S. Next week, #BoycottArkansas may be the one to watch.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is openly gay, took to Twitter Friday to condemn Indiana’s newly signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and to call on Hutchinson to veto Arkansas’ version.
The Arkansas Municipal League, Wal-Mart and Yelp have also spoken out against the measure. Corporate backlash from American Airlines, Google and the National Football League (to name a few) managed to successfully sink a religious freedom bill that cleared Arizona's Republican-controlled legislature last year, and may prove similarly persuasive to Hutchinson, who has been trying to woo tech talent.
“[I]t is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large,” Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said in an open letter to states “considering imposing discrimination laws.” According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arkansas RFRA is one of 24 introduced in 15 states so far this legislative session.
“I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions,” Stoppelman continued. “(We’re looking at you, Arkansas.)”