Concerns about discrimination have sparked in the nation after two states were heavily criticized about their new laws over religious freedom. Due to the massive backlash, each state decided to take different approaches to how the legislation will adapt in order to put an end to the nationwide protests.
The main issue was that the latest laws created an environment for discrimination against gays based on legal grounds, and so the governors of both Indiana and Arkansas decided to sign new bills on Thursday.
For Arkansas, that meant that Gov. Asa Hutchinson was requested to revise the law as to be more aligned to the original 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A lot of businesses, among which we name retail giant Wal-Mart expressed openly their disagreement with the law, creating a huge pressure on the authorities.
But Indiana had a little bit more trouble coming its way, as businesses and organizations started banning travel and cancel events. Gov. Mike Pence came up with the solution of introducing an amendment including the first references to gender identity and sexual orientation into the state’s law.
The governor explained that the law was never meant to give room to discrimination and blamed the repercussions on “mischaracterizations” of the legislation. Later on Thursday, he signed the bill in his office with at least two dozens witnesses, and suggested that everyone move on.
After revision, the Indiana law states specifically that no service provider is allowed to use it as legal grounds for refusing to offer services, goods, or accommodations. It also made it clear that discrimination is prohibited, whether it is based on age, race, religion, color, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, disability, U.S. military service or gender identity.
The only ones exempted by this measure are affiliated schools, churches and nonprofit religious organizations. The Indiana Catholic Conference and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C. said in a conference that the government should not be allowed to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in their daily lives.
Much of the criticism that fell on Indiana was fortunately avoided in Arkansas, as Hutchinson had made the changes before signing the law, which is very closely mirroring the 1993 federal law.
The updated legislation also refers only to governmental actions and not to businesses or individuals. Supporters of Hutchinson believe such a language is set to prevent businesses from using it as legal defense for denying services. There are, however, a lot of opponents are still convinced the measure would be more efficient if it added some explicit anti-discrimination language.
Image Source: CNBC
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