- March 31, 2015
Post submitted by Hubert Tate, former HRC Press Secretary, Project One America
In response to the Arkansas House sending Governor Asa Hutchinson H.B. 1228 to sign into law, Wal-Mart released a statement from its CEO, Doug McMillon, asking the governor to veto the bill. H.B. 1228 would permit discrimination against LGBT people, people of color, religious minorities, women and other minority groups across the state based on “sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
In the statement, McMillon says:
“Every day in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve. It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual. Today’s passage of H.B. 1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold. For these reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation."
H.B.1228, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, could allow any person to ignore state laws and cite their personal religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against others. For instance, a teacher who puts an anti-bullying policy into practice could be at risk of being sued, or a police officer could sue their precinct because patrolling a synagogue violated their religious beliefs. Wal-Mart joins dozens of corporate leaders and businesses who have condemned the legislation, including Apple and its CEO Tim Cook; Acxiom, one of Arkansas’ largest employers; Yelp; PayPal; the Arkansas Municipal League and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Similar legislation signed into law in Indiana has received a torrent of criticism, as companies like Salesforce, Angie’s List and others have stated that they will cut back on or limit investment in the state of Indiana because of the discriminatory new law.
If Governor Hutchinson signs H.B. 1228 into law, it will be the second piece of anti-LGBT legislation to become law in Arkansas this year. In February, the legislature passed S.B. 202, prohibiting municipalities from enacting non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people. Governor Hutchinson allowed the bill to become law without his signature.