LR mayor asks Hutchinson to veto HB1228

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola speaks in Little Rock at the Arkansas Municipal League's 80th Convention.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola speaks in Little Rock at the Arkansas Municipal League's 80th Convention.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola has asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the Religious Freedom Restoration Act if it passes the state House on Tuesday.

Stodola had a signed letter hand delivered to Hutchinson's office Monday that listed his reasons for being opposed to House Bill 1228, which would not allow the state to "substantially burden a person's right to exercise of religion" unless doing so is necessary "to further a compelling state interest."

The capital city's mayor wrote that freedom of religion is already embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

"Indeed, before the introduction of HB1228, the people of Arkansas have always given a high priority to religious freedom and they will continue to give religious freedom a high priority if it is not enacted. This type of legislation is simply not necessary," Stodola wrote.

Critics say the bill would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and others. Hundreds rallied against the bill at the state Capitol on Monday when a House committee approved Senate amendments to the bill.

Stodola said the legislation is "too divisive" and will have a negative impact on the state's image and economic development.

"With these kind of 'wedge issues,' no one is a winner on either side," he said.

The House will likely take up a vote on the bill as amended today when they convene at 1 p.m. It would then go to the governor's desk to be signed into law or vetoed.

Hutchinson said Monday that he would sign the bill.

The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce also issued a statement Tuesday speaking out against HB1228, stating that the legislation is "bad for business and bad for Arkansas."

"As the principal business organization responsible for fostering the economic growth and development of the Little Rock Region, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce supports an open and fair workplace and equitable business environment for all," the chamber said.

"While we believe that HB 1228 seeks to protect the religious freedoms of all Arkansans, it can be interpreted to provide religious protection for Arkansans who choose to discriminate against other Arkansans."

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Reader poll

Do you agree with HB1228, Arkansas' Religious Freedom Restoration Act?

  • Yes; it's an important protection for those who wish to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs. 19%
  • No; it will allow businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. 72%
  • No, but it can be remedied with language saying the legislation specifically has no discriminatory intent. 7%
  • I have no position. 1%
  • Other (please comment) 1%

8161 total votes.

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