Arkansas business leaders including Wal-Mart ask the governor not to sign a controversial religious freedom law some say allows discrimination against gay couples. Photo by Brian Snyder courtesy of Reuters HIGH RES:

Arkansas, like Indiana, passes a 'religious freedom' law and Wal-Mart objects

(Reuters) - Arkansas lawmakers passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Tuesday that critics said would allow businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians, drawing a swift demand from Wal-Mart Stores Inc for the governor to veto the bill.

Arkansas followed Indiana, which passed a similar act last week. They are the first to do so since same-sex marriage became legal in many states last year. Corporations have criticized the measures.

At present 37 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia permit gay marriage.

Arkansas business leaders including Wal-Mart ask the governor not to sign a controversial religious freedom law some say allows discrimination against gay couples. Photo by Brian Snyder courtesy of Reuters

Arkansas business leaders including Wal-Mart ask the governor not to sign a controversial religious freedom law some say allows discrimination against gay couples. Photo by Brian Snyder courtesy of Reuters

The world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., issued a statement saying the Arkansas bill threatened to undermine "the spirit of inclusion" in the state and "does not reflect the values we proudly uphold."

Signed by Doug McMillon, chief executive officer, the statement asked Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto the legislation.

Indiana's Republican Governor Mike Pence, responding to national outrage over his signing of his state's law last week, vowed earlier on Tuesday to "fix" the act so that businesses could not use the law to deny services to same-sex couples.

Some of the most powerful U.S. companies, including Apple , Angie's List, diesel engine-maker Cummins Inc, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and drug-maker Eli Lilly and Co , had called on Pence to clarify or repeal the law, which passed with an overwhelming majority in the state's legislature.

Democratic governors, joined by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, banned official state business travel to Indiana. Auto racing company NASCAR and the Indianapolis-based NCAA, an organization for university athletic programs, voiced concern over the law. And the Indiana-based Disiples of Christ denomination says it will move it's 2017 convention out of Indianapolis.

At a news conference Pence said the law protected people of all faiths from being forced by the government to go against their beliefs. The lawyer and one-time radio talk-show host repeatedly denied that the intent of the law was to allow discrimination.

Critics said Indiana's law as it is now written would allow businesses to deny services such as wedding cakes or wedding music for gay marriages on religious grounds.

Pence found support from conservatives including Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz and possible presidential contenders Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who praised the law.

Supporters have said the acts do not allow for discrimination and are needed to protect religious freedoms.

But critics contend they are part of a broader effort by Republican-dominated statehouses in socially conservative states to push back against a series of U.S. court decisions allowing same-sex marriage.

Pence said the law he signed last week had been unfairly "smeared" and called on the Republican-controlled General Assembly to come up with clarifications this week.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of June whether the U.S. Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage, and if it does not, whether states that ban it must recognize marriages performed in states permitting such unions.

"What's happened is that with same-sex marriage on the horizon, the individuals and the believers who do not want to support same-sex marriage are looking to a formula in RFRAs to allow them to avoid same-sex marriage in the market place," said Marci Hamilton, law professor at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and an opponent of RFRAs.

Arkansas' RFRA also allows religious discrimination lawsuits between private parties, and goes a step further in that it would bar employees from invoking religious freedom in suing employers, Hamilton said.

Lori Windham, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has brought RFRA cases on behalf of people of different faiths, said the clarification should not be necessary.

"It should already be clear that these laws require courts to balance religious freedom against other interests. They don't mean religion always wins, they mean that religious people have their day in court," she said.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Steve Barnes in Little Rock, Emily Stephenson and Susan Heavey in Washington. and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Writing by Fiona Ortiz and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by James Dalgleish and Howard Goller)


  1. We are talking about consensual sex between two adults. The idea that Gays are more likely to abuse children than homosexuals is just not true. Most Democrats are Christian and don’t abuse anyone’s children. They may not like people who believe that Gays are evil, but they don’t hate 99% of Christians.

  2. First, there are around 20 states with the same law; second, it’s a federal law:

    The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (November 16, 1993), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb through 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-4 (also known as RFRA), is a 1993 United States federal law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.”[1] The bill was introduced by Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993 and passed by a unanimous U.S. House and a near unanimous U.S. Senate with three dissenting votes[2] and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. (Wikipedia)

  3. Wal-Mart is my favorite grocery store (as long as you watch the expiration dates), but it’s good to see Arkansas send a strong reminder to today’s Wallyworld that American constitutional religious freedoms are NOT for sale at any price.

  4. This looks too much like an April Fool’s gag.

  5. Julia, I’m confused. If there already is a Federal law that covers all 50 states, why do 20 states think they need to write it into their own state codes? What do they get out of the duplication? What could their motives be for doing what is turning out to be a very costly but unnecessary exercise in legislation? Whatever the payoff is, it must be pretty big… like getting reelected by appeasing a group of voters.

  6. You know a law is truly immoral crap when even the owners of Walmart can claim moral high ground against it with a straight face. The governor has no intention to sign the bill. Its not going anywhere.

    The RFRA was crap law when it was passed 20 years ago, its current progeny is even worse. Its simply a way to legalize segregation in business and discriminate against people under the color of law. An answer to a problem which did not exist and will create more problems.

  7. Sen. Chuck Schumer co-wrote the federal RFRA with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), blasted Pence’s mischaracterization on Facebook:

    In the uproar over the recently passed Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), defenders of the bill like Indiana Gov. Pence are trying to hide behind the argument that the law “simply mirrors” the federal RFRA Sen. Ted Kennedy wrote and I introduced as a Congressman in 1993. That may be true only if you’re using a Funhouse mirror. In reality, it is completely false, and a disingenuous argument to boot; they should cease and desist immediately comparing the federal RFRA of 1993 to their present, misguided law.

    There is considerably more that he wrote, but basically, IT IS NOT THE SAME AS THE FEDERAL LAW.

  8. THIS LAW IN ARKANSAS HAS CONVINCED ME. I’ve looked into it and now I see the light.

    It is time for me to bow to our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Praise the Holy Spirit for awakening me!

    All this activity in the Christian community – the strength they are showing
    in the face of national uproar is very inspiring and I want all the Christians to know that I understand these laws now that I have fallen on my knees and prayed for insight!! It is amazing – God is real – LGBT people are sinners going to Hellfire but it is their choice.

    Praise to God our King and Jesus Christ
    the only begotten Son who sits at the Right Hand of the Father who will come in Glory one day!

    I’m so glad it happened on April 1st.
    Praise God!

  9. LOL. I got pwned by Max’s April fools joke.

  10. Now, has Wall Mart discriminated against gays prior to this law? If not, why would they now? What gay person would allow WalMart do be its wedding planner anyway? This is all getting surreal.

  11. No, Wal-Mart discriminated against people seeking health insurance, fair wages, safe working conditions and reasonably negotiated supplier contracts. 🙂

    But Wal-Mart knows how destructive and useless legalized discrimination is. They are also the largest employer in the state.

    Its a truly ironic thing they actually have moral high ground here, despite being as close to “Evil Co.” as reality can get.

    “What gay person would allow WalMart do be its wedding planner anyway?”

    Are you prejudiced against low low prices? 🙂

  12. Because the federal RFRA does not apply to the states

  13. No, I know that gays have almost impeccable taste in ambience and decor. Lesbians may be a little less so, but I’m sure they reach out to the guys for advice.

  14. The Supremes have offered weak support regarding the right of a BUSINESS, as opposed to an individual, to refuse service based upon their 1st Amendment protection regarding their religion.

    That is why states are tweaking the business issue.

  15. They limited it to basically just Hobby Lobby. It was a crap decision designed to get to a specific end but not to have any precedential value.

    States are trying to turn “religious freedom” into free for all. As a way to circumvent 14th amendment equal protection under he law,

  16. Now … in looking at those small trees in that very large forest, consider this:

    A store selling strictly produce grown without pesticides is approached by a group who want a certain type of vegetable, which they know the large farm down the street grows, but only through use of pesticides (because there is a bug that attacks it in its early stages). This group wants the veggie, but they don’t want to drive 15 miles to the stores that carry it (rural area). They like the convenience of driving a mile or two to this local organic market. Everyone knows each other. The farm has been around for a long time. It’s kind of a fixture. It has clout in the neighborhood. There is pressure for the owner of the produce store to sell this product, but he does not want to because it goes against his beliefs (he only sells food grown without chemicals). Will this bill protect him from being bullied into selling the big farm’s veggie–even if there is a driving demand in town for it?

  17. I really am amused at how those who cite “intolerance,” are the first to be intolerant. Let me find the headlines, “Gov. Inslee [WA] imposed an administration-wide ban on travel to Indiana in response to Indiana’s new ‘religious freedom’ law.” The headlines should actually read, “Typical foaming at the mouth intolerant leftist screams intolerance.” Ah, when will people realize that the markets will settle the case one way or the other in its own good time.

  18. Susan, tell that to the Catholic Church, which learned the hard way about openly accepting homosexual men into the priesthood. More than 80 percent of those abuse cases were male priest on boy victim. And…I’d have to disagree with you that most Democrats are Christian. Let’s rephrase that as CINO (Christian in Name Only). Democrat politicians are the most rabid Anti-Life legislators in our country.

  19. Greg,
    Regarding the clergy sex abuse … whether these horrible acts were committed by gay or straight men/women, your superiors are also RESPONSIBLE, all the way up to your popes. THEY HAVE ADMITTED THE HIDING AND THE COVER-UP. Let’s make a comparison, shall we: German airline pilot—his superiors. WHO KNEW WHAT? If your superiors knew these men were mentally unstable, why in God’s Name would they allow them to continue performing?
    Is this a matter of political clout? Politics of the church—FAVORS?

    Is this the big Pandora’s jar about to be opened? Children suffered at the hands of RELIGION AND POLITICS?


  20. WHO what? oops, the rest never came out.

  21. Legalized discrimination screams much louder than official protests. There is no argument more brain dead than, “you won’t tolerate my bigoted attacks on others, you are the real bigots”.

    Greg the only bigots here are the ones trying to deny goods and services to people, under color of law.

  22. The religious freedom game that SOME Christians (not ALL) are playing is dangerous — because its a bold lie and twists reality in order to marginalize and normalize hate. The right to discriminate is not a constitutional freedom. I find it funny that these Christian businesses don’t mind selling their wares to all kinds of ‘sinful’ people, many of whom are not believers, YET, somehow, serving GLBTQ people is a problem. Why not have the right to not serve any ‘unrepentant sinners?’ No one seems to be fighting for that one. America is waking up to your lie and the true faith of Christ and Gospels will triumph — not this hateful, man-invented version of guns, flags and whiteness.

  23. Well, Cranmer, there lies a whole lotta hypocrisy, and Christians harkening to the Word of God should know this … but the game wrestles on …

  24. If you ask them, cranmer, they will tell you that this is different from all other sins, because being gay is different from all other sins, except when it’s exactly the same as murder, adultery, and theft, and all other sins.

    Becuase, Jesus, of course, who had absolutely nothing to say about not judging others and treating others as you would like to be treated.

  25. You tell us, Oprah, you are the expert on Roman Catholicism. All of us are waiting for your proof. Or are you going to post that laughable link to women discrimination or Chilean priest molestors? Hurry….

  26. James Carr,

    at the hands of abuse … I know what it looks like, and it has your name written all over it … like to dispute this?

    Based on your comments on these threads alone, you are a Fascist. The question the world needs to ask is this:

    Is the Roman Catholic Church a Fascist Institution? Your choice, James C … but can it survive in the United States of America? (without political favoritism).

    And I really need to ask (so that you might ingratiate yourself even more) … where and how do you think I am anything like Oprah?

  27. The Catholic Church is a divinely structured institution, unique in the entire world. God is the Head, His visible representative on earth is the Pope. So, it is not Fascist, Communist, Democratic, or monarchial.
    No Pope has diluted the Deposit of Faith despite any of their human weaknesses. The Church continues to teach as God would, instructing each new generation the Truth and explaining these truths as society manages to come up with questions that want to challenge it.
    The Church is not a stale, or dead, religion…..for it can answer any question on morals or faith with the Revelations God has blessed us with. No new revelations will come, Jesus ended that….only deeper understanding of what has been given is impossible.

  28. The State Laws ALLOW discrimination against those who do not share the same beliefs.

    Furthermore, Employers are also allowed to discriminate against employees as the employee no longer has legal recourse to portect against religious discrimination in the workplace. Which is illegal in Federal Labor Law. So now the Southern Baptists can hire and fire based on religious bigotry.

    It doies not rescind Federal Labor Law, it just takes the teeth out of any penalty.
    Like muder being illegal but there is no penalty.

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