Same-Sex Marriage in Arkansas

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Senate approved two shell bills Wednesday night in hopes one could be used to pass a last-minute religious freedom act that would align with a federal law passed in 1993. Thursday is set as the last day of the session.

Left to right: Senate President Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and Governor Asa Hutchinson (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The national attention on "religious freedom" laws shifted from Indiana to Arkansas on Wednesday.

Arkansas received a heavy backlash from gay-rights groups and the business community with its bill that some say would allow discrimination of gay people. HB 1228 would let companies deny service to anyone if it conflicts with religious beliefs.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson had been saying as recently as last week that he would support the bill as it was written, but on Wednesday asked lawmakers to recall the legislation and make modifications.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

The Arkansas Legislature approved a bill Tuesday that would heighten judicial scrutiny in cases involving sincerely held religious beliefs. Opponents of HB1228 say it legalizes discrimination and will be used particularly against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.

Following the passage of a religious freedom law in Indiana last week, business leaders with interests in that state and in Arkansas have spoken out against the laws, which extend strict scrutiny standards to religious beliefs in cases involving private companies.

HB 1228 religious freedom gay rights
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

On a day when renewed opposition from the state’s business community implored Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop HB 1228, a bill dubbed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the Arkansas House passed three amendments to the measure that sealed the bill’s fate for the governor’s desk.

Mark stodola mayor
Arkansas Times

Little Rock's mayor is urging Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a "religious freedom" bill that critics have said sanctions discrimination against gays and lesbians and that the mayor argues will hurt the state's economic development efforts.

Acxiom CEO Scott Howe and Chief Legal Officer Jerry Jones have signed a letter calling on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto HB 1228, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Acxiom, a Little Rock-based technology firm, is one of the biggest database marketers in the world. It employs about 1,760 workers in Arkansas.

Howe and Jones said in their letter that they “respectfully request” the governor to veto the legislation.

Bob Ballinger
arkansashouse.org

A proposal aimed at protecting religious beliefs that opponents say allows widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians is advancing to the Arkansas House for a final vote.

Talk Business & Politics

On Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially named Mike Preston as the new executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the state agency charged with recruiting and retaining jobs. Preston comes from Enterprise Florida, that state’s economic development arm.

Preston appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, which will be broadcast Monday at 6:06 p.m. on KUAR.

Preston, 32, spent six years with Enterprise Florida and also worked for a State Representative and State Senator in the Florida Legislature.

A federal judge says she won't allow same-sex marriages in Arkansas while the issue is pending before an appeals court.

Lawyers claim gay couples are suffering continuing harm by not being allowed to marry. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker struck down Arkansas' ban against same-sex marriages in November but issued a stay pending an appeal. The same-sex couples asked Baker to lift the stay, but the judge said Wednesday court rules won't let her.

The Arkansas attorney general's office is asking a federal judge who struck down the state's gay marriage ban to not allow same-sex couples resume marrying.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office on Monday asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to not lift the stay she put on her ruling last year striking down a 2004 voter-approved amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Baker suspended her ruling while the state appealed, but the couples challenging the ban have asked her to lift that stay.

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