LITTLE ROCK, AR — Protesters gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion before dawn Monday in an effort to urge Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a controversial bill on religious freedom.
Just days after it the cleared the Arkansas Senate, House Bill 1228, known as the Conscience Protection Act, is at the center of widespread debate. It has sparked protests both online and on the streets.
Lawmakers say the bill will bring Arkansas in step with federal law that prevents government from intruding on religious practices.
What LGBT and civil rights advocates say the bill will do instead is allow for a grey area where business owners or other entities could discriminate against them because of their religious beliefs.
Despite more than 13-thousand signatures on a petition opposing the bill, Governor Asa Hutchinson has already made his decision.
“It tries to maintain the balance of religious freedom versus equal protection under the laws, it’s a balance we always try to achieve. This bill tires to do that, and it’s not that complicated,” the governor said this weekend.
The Senate passed the bill Friday 24-7, Two members did not vote.
Gov. Hutchinson says he plans to sign the bill in its current form.