Even Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) received a rather personal objection to the state’s controversial “religious freedom” legislation.
When Hutchinson announced on Wednesday that he would not sign the bill in its current form, he cited his son’s opposition as a sign that the issue was “divisive” and should be treated with care.
“My son, Seth, signed the petition asking me, Dad, the governor, to veto this bill. And he gave me permission to make that reference,” Hutchinson said.
The governor said his son’s opposition suggests there’s a “generational gap” on the “religious freedom” issue that has generated nationwide debate. Proponents of this type of legislation say it simply protects religious people from government interference with their practices. Critics say it opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“The issue has become divisive because our nation remains split on how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions. It has divided families and there is clearly a generational gap on this issue,” Hutchinson said.
The “religious freedom” controversy was ignited last week when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state’s bill into law. After a wide swath of businesses and government leaders vowed to boycott the state, Pence held a press conference on Tuesday defending the bill but announcing he would push for a legislative “fix” to clarify that it does not permit discrimination. Powerful interests like Arkansas-based Wal-Mart also lobbied Hutchinson to veto the bill, which he previously said he would sign.
For his part, Hutchinson was cautious in describing his concerns about the Arkansas measure. His main complaint was that it did not “precisely mirror” the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Hutchinson said he asked the state’s legislative leaders to recall the bill and tweak it to be closer to the federal guidelines.
Pence has also cited the federal law as a sign the “religious freedom” issue shouldn’t be especially controversial. However, the White House said the 1993 law is far different from some of the state bills under discussion.
“Governor Pence has tried to falsely suggest that the law that was signed in Indiana is the same as the law that was passed at the federal level in 1993,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday, according to a transcript. “That is not true. And the reason that that’s not true is that the 1993 law was an effort to try to protect the religious liberty of religious minorities based on actions that could be taken by the federal government.”
Hutchinson’s son did not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment on his communications with his father about the legislation.
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