Discriminatory “Conscience Protection Act” Suffers Setback in Senate Judiciary Committee

by HRC Staff

HRC Arkansas urges legislature to abandon consideration of H.B. 1228

LITTLE ROCK—Today, after Governor Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Municipal League and Wal-Mart, a major Arkansas employer, all announced major concerns about the legislation, H.B. 1228, the so-called “Conscience Protection Act” suffered a key setback in the Senate Judiciary Committee. As written, the bill would allow individuals to sue government actors—including teachers, firefighters and police officers—if that individual believed that their personal religious beliefs were being violated.

“Arkansans have major concerns about this legislation, and it should advance no further,” said HRC Arkansas State Director Kendra R. Johnson. “When fair-minded Arkansans are speaking up alongside Wal-Mart, Governor Hutchinson, and the Arkansas Municipal League to urge the legislature to slow down, it’s clear that this bill is wrong for Arkansas.”

On Tuesday evening, Wal-Mart spoke out about its opposition to H.B. 1228, noting through a spokesperson, "while H.B. 1228 will not change how we treat our associates and operate our business, we feel this legislation is also counter to our core basic belief of respect for the individual and sends the wrong message about Arkansas, as well as the diverse environment which exists in the state.”

Governor Hutchinson has also noted key concerns about the legislation, saying yesterday, "It raises a lot of questions as to how it would be applied, how it'd actually work. As a lawyer with a little bit of experience in the legal arena ... there are a lot of questions that need to be answered in regard to this. I can see a great deal of litigation coming out of this."

Though the bill failed to get a recommendation from the Judiciary Committee today, members could try to revive the bill at a later date.

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