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Arkansas State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson: I Was A 'Coward' To Pass Religious Freedom Bill In Committee

04/03/2015 06:10 pm ET | Updated Apr 03, 2015

Jeremy Hutchinson, an Arkansas state senator and Republican who cast one of the five votes that brought the original version of the state's controversial religious freedom bill to the Senate floor, joined HuffPost Live on Friday and expressed disappointment at his voting record on the bill.

Hutchinson (who is the nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson) voted for the first version of Arkansas' Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the Senate Judiciary Committee, then he voted against it when it came to the floor, and he later sponsored an amended version of the bill. In a conversation with HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski, he addressed why he shifted his stance on the controversial legislation.

After HB 1228 had been defeated three times in the committee, a Democrat changed his vote and created a tie, which Hutchinson then had to break, he told Minkovski.

"I had yet to vote on it, period, because as chairman you don't vote unless you're needed to make the fifth vote, which is the passing vote," he said. "And so when this Democrat switched his vote, I was surprised, as was everybody else, and in that moment, I honestly was a coward and voted party line and voted to send it out."

After the bill passed, Hutchinson "immediately began to regret" his decision, holding bill in committee for two days. The bill later went to the full Senate floor and passed, 24-7.

Although the bill has since been revised to match the language of the more narrowly-worded federal regulations, Hutchinson lamented his role in the passage of the original bill.

I have failed in many ways because I should have raised the concerns that I ended up sharing with everybody. I should have done that months in advance, but again, we didn't think the bill would ever get out of committee. But I began to raise those concerns. Other people began to recognize the uncertainty of [HB] 1228 and not knowing what all of the unintended consequences could be.

Watch the HuffPost Live conversation with State Sen. Hutchinson in the video above.

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