Arkansas Legislative Panel Rejects 'Conscience-Protection' On 3-3 Vote

Feb 25, 2015

A "conscience-protection" proposal that critics say is an attempt to sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians has failed before an Arkansas legislative panel.

The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the proposal to ban any local or state laws or regulations that substantially burden religious beliefs unless a "compelling governmental interest" is proven.

The House-backed measure faced mounting criticism from businesses, local governments and advocacy groups. They said it targeted gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

The bill's sponsor said he wasn't sure whether he would try again.

Retail giant Wal-Mart, which is based in Bentonville, had said the proposal sent the wrong message about the state. Gov. Asa Hutchinson had also expressed reservations about the bill.

The bill failed on a 3-3 vote, with one member voting present.