Arkansas Governor Urges Changes to 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is calling for changes to a religious objection measure facing a backlash from businesses and gay rights groups, saying it wasn't intended to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Republican governor on Wednesday said he wants changes to a bill lawmakers sent him prohibiting state and local government from infringing upon someone's religious beliefs without a compelling interest. Hutchinson said he wants the Legislature to either recall the bill or pass a follow-up measure to make the proposal more closely mirror a 1993 federal religious freedom law.

From NPR's Krishnadev Calamur:

The measure is similar to one approved in Indiana that has resulted in a massive backlash.

Critics of the measures say they allow businesses to refuse services to gays and lesbians.

As NPR reported over the weekend, 19 other states have laws akin to the legislation in Indiana and Arkansas. But critics say that because sexual orientation is not a protected class in those two states, it leaves the door open for discrimination.

Supporters of the measure say it advances religious freedom. Hutchinson had previously said he would sign HB1228, as the Arkansas measure is known, but that was before the national criticism of Indiana's religious freedom law — criticism that prompted Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to say Tuesday, "We'll fix this and we'll move forward."