Even as national outrage over Indiana's "right-to-discriminate" law continues to escalate, yet another GOP-controlled statehouse has passed a so-called "religious freedom restoration act." Meanwhile, a red-faced Indiana legislature scrambles to "clarify" its shameful new law.
Despite some Arkansas lawmakers' best efforts to include specific anti-discrimination language to House Bill 1228, the state legislature gave final approval to the measure. The bill's Republican sponsor refused the change, despite his earlier insistence that the legislation was not meant to allow discrimination.
The Arkansas right-to-discriminate bill is substantively the same as Indiana's new law. As they were originally written, the broad language in both measures potentially grant businesses and private citizens license to discriminate against gays and lesbians by using religious prejudices as a shield.
Now that they've been thoroughly embarrassed by the outrage -- both national and local -- over the law, Indiana legislators will seek to "clarify" it before their session ends at the end of the month. They should spend their remaining weeks of session repealing the measure instead of attempting to tweak something so fundamentally and deeply flawed.
Will Arkansas similarly seek to retcon their new right-to-discriminate law after the backlash spreads southward?
And which state will pass the next one?
North Carolina's S550 and H348 closely resemble the bills passed in Arkansas and Indiana. Gov. Pat McCrory has publicly blasted the passage of any so-called "religious freedom restoration acts," but he has stopped short of pledging to veto them.
Republicans in Michigan could pass SB4 out of committee at any time. Its current version isn't as obviously permissive of discrimination as its Indiana and Arkansas ilk, but it's no less troubling.
GOP lawmakers in Montana are trying to circumvent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's likely veto by placing a right-to-discriminate amendment to the state constitution on the ballot in 2016.
An iota of good news can be found in Georgia, where a bill closely resembling Indiana's new law stalled out in Georgia in the waning days of its legislative session.
But the fact that Republican majorities in state legislatures are working so hard to create new ways to discriminate against our fellow Americans is shameful. The GOP is trying to move our country backwards one state at a time, and they must be held accountable.
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