Discrimination Hub

Arkansas Senate Passes Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Bill, Governor Asa Hutchinson Says He'll Sign

An Indiana-style bill allowing individuals to discriminate based on religious beliefs has just passed the Arkansas Senate. Arkansas Online reports the bill first heads back to the House to consider amendments added on the Senate side before heading to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk.

Hutchinson said Thursday he intends to sign the bill. 

HRC reacts via statement:

HutchinsonToday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and HRC Arkansas condemned the Arkansas senate's passage of H.B. 1228, an Indiana-style bill that will open the door to discrimination against LGBT people, people of color, religious minorities, women and other minority groups across the state. After a formal procedural hurdle, the bill will be on its way to Governor Asa Hutchinson's desk. HRC has repeatedly called on the governor to veto this legislation, including at a press conference featuring HRC president Chad Griffin yesterday.

"This bill is a poison pill for jobs and investment in the state of Arkansas, and Governor Hutchinson has a duty to veto it," said HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin following the Senate vote. "If he does not, his reputation will be forever stained and the people of the state of Arkansas will suffer for his willingness to cater to a small political faction whose sole intent is to discriminate against their fellow Arkansans."

The bill has been opposed by Wal-Mart, Apple, and the Arkansas Municipal League for weeks. Yesterday, following the enactment of a similar bill in Indiana, a wave of high-tech companies like Yelp and Salesforce -- precisely the kinds of investment Governor Hutchinson has said he hopes to attract to the state -- have condemned this kind of legislation.

At a press conference today in Little Rock today, HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin announced that the...

Posted by HRC Arkansas on Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jon Stewart ripped into the bill in a segment last week. Civil rights legend Julian Bond has also spoken out against the bill, saying:

"H.B. 1228 in Arkansas opens the door to a hateful past that some had thought this country had left behind. This legislation cloaks discrimination in the guise of religion--and it will mark people of color, LGBT Arkansans, religious minorities and women as second class citizens. Governor Hutchinson has a duty and a moral obligation to veto this legislation or the ghosts of the past will haunt his legacy."

Hutchinson's office can be reached at 501-682-2345. 

Senate passes HB1228 and the amendment goes back to the House for final approval. This bill is on a fast track to the...

Posted by HRC Arkansas on Friday, March 27, 2015


Yelp's Open Letter Warning to States Considering Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Bills Is Must Read

StoppelmanWhile the list of corporations, politicians and celebrities boycotting Indiana grows, the CEO of Yelp is taking preemptive action to ensure other states understand the economic consequences of choosing to move forward with discriminatory "religious liberty" bills.

In an open letter penned on the Yelp official blog, CEO Jeremy Stoppelman warns that his company "will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books."

Stoppelman writes:

A little over one year ago I wrote an open letter to then-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer requesting that she veto SB 1062, a bill that would have allowed businesses in the state to discriminate against consumers. Thankfully she did the right thing and vetoed that legislation, thus maintaining Arizona’s status as a hospitable place for Yelp’s employees to live and for our company to do business.

Since that time, however, legislators in other states have sought to pass, or have enacted, laws that would allow for businesses to discriminate against consumers based on certain traits including sexual orientation. While Indiana is the most recent state to enact a law allowing for this kind of discrimination by businesses, unfortunately measures are being debated in other states across the country that would follow Indiana’s example. These laws set a terrible precedent that will likely harm the broader economic health of the states where they have been adopted, the businesses currently operating in those states and, most importantly, the consumers who could be victimized under these laws.

Just as I said in my letter to Governor Brewer, it is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.)

I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions. In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books.

I also hope that other companies will draw a similar line in the sand for equality on behalf of their employees and the greater public to persuade legislators to do the right thing and stop or rescind these harmful laws.


Jeremy Stoppelman

CEO, Yelp

In related news, civil rights leader and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond has released a statement blasting Arkansas's proposed bill, saying:

H.B. 1228 in Arkansas opens the door to a hateful past that some had thought this country had left behind. This legislation cloaks discrimination in the guise of religion--and it will mark people of color, LGBT Arkansans, religious minorities and women as second class citizens. Governor Hutchinson has a duty and a moral obligation to veto this legislation or the ghosts of the past will haunt his legacy."

Earlier today, we told you about the campaign to prevent a similar "license to discriminate" bill from becoming law in Georgia.  

Advocates Mobilize to Stop Georgia's Anti-LGBT 'Religious Freedom' Bill: VIDEO


An anti-LGBT "religious freedom" bill similar to the one signed into law in Indiana yesterday is currently working its way through the Georgia Legislature, but activists are hoping to stop this one before it gets to the governor's desk. 

Georgia's SB 129 allowing businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian customers based on religious beliefs passed the Georgia Senate last week. Yesterday, some good news came when the state's House Judiciary Committee voted to table the bill after an amendment was added to keep the bill from allowing discrimination - effectively gutting the bill's primary purpose.  

Session ends next week, but anti-LGBT opponents are reportedly still working to bring the bill back. You can follow the bill's progress here

Via HRC statement:

"This ill-conceived, discriminatory bill threatens not just the LGBT community, but women, racial minorities, members of minority faiths, and the economic climate of the state," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "All Georgians deserve to be treated fairly and equally with dignity and respect. We call on Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to stop this bill before it becomes law, inflicting harm throughout the state."

Major local conferences have already threatened to move out of the state if the bill becomes law, including: American Society for Higher Education, American Academy of Religion, American Historical Association, German Studies Association, History of Science Society, Philosophy of Science Association, Society for Biblical Literature, and Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.

MckoonState Sen. Josh McKoon (pictured), the chief proponent of the "license to discriminate" bill, called these economic warnings against the bill "nebulous" and claimed the bill wouldn't impact the economic interests of the state. He obviously hasn't been paying attention to the #BoycottIndiana backlash.

In fact, a campaign calling on Georgia-based corporate allies to speak out against #SB129 is currently underway. Comic and fantasy convention Dragon Con has already done so:

Dragon Con is calling on Georgia lawmakers to reject the "license to discriminate" RFRA bill! Click "like" and share to...

Posted by Georgia Unites Against Discrimination on Thursday, March 26, 2015
The Augusta Chronicle's editorial staff, meanwhile, called SB 129 "a solution we don't need in search of a problem that doesn't exist."

The push by Georgia Republicans to further enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law has also faced opposition from an unlikely source recently: Mike Bowers. Bowers was the former Georgia Attorney General who defended the state's sodomy law in the landmark Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick. Last month, he spoke out against so-called "religious freedom" bills as an "excuse to practice invidious discrimination."

Watch McKoon defend discrimination at yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Advocates Mobilize to Stop Georgia's Anti-LGBT 'Religious Freedom' Bill: VIDEO" »

Federal Judge Blocks Gay Workers in Four States From Taking Unpaid Leave To Care For Sick Spouses


Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been in office less than three months, but he's already making a name for himself as one of the nation's biggest anti-gay bigots. 

Last month, Paxton (above with Sen. Ted Cruz) sought to void the marriage of a 30-year lesbian couple, even though one of the women has ovarian cancer. And last week, he filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over a new labor department rule extending benefits under the Family & Medical Leave Act to same-sex couples who live in states that don't recognize their marriages. 

On Thursday, Paxton — a "tea partier" who admitted to securities fraud last year — won a small, temporary victory in his ongoing war against LGBT people. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a President George W. Bush appointee, issued an order blocking the new FMLA rule from taking effect as scheduled on Friday in Texas and three other states that joined Paxton's lawsuit — Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska.  

“The Obama Administration’s attempt to force employers to recognize same-sex marriages would have put state agencies in the position of either violating Texas law or federal regulations,” Paxton said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Department of Labor’s effort to override our laws via federal rulemaking has been halted, and we will continue to defend our sovereignty in this case.”

Reed-OConnor_bigJudge O'Connor (right) presides over the Northern District of Texas in Wichita Falls, an extremely conservative area that has brought us, among others, the Rev. Robert Jeffress. In his 24-page decision, O'Connor wrote that if the new FMLA rule was allowed to take effect, "irreparable injury would occur." From the decision: 

“The Full Faith and Credit Statute affirms Congress’ intention to reserve the power to define marriage and accompanying rights and benefits to the states, and Windsor cabins Congress’ authority to aggrandize that power. Congress could not have delegated to the Department the power to define marriage in a way as to override the laws of states prohibiting same-sex marriages.”

The Human Rights Campaign issued this statement in response to O'Connor's ruling: 

“No legally married same-sex couple should be denied family leave simply because they happen to live in a state that fails to respect their marriage,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Because of Judge O’Connor’s decision, countless legally married same-sex couples in Texas are now unable to access to their federal FMLA benefits. With a pending Supreme Court decision on nationwide marriage equality this summer, we are confident that justice will ultimately prevail.”

In other words, if the U.S. Supreme Court issues a nationwide decision in favor of marriage equality in June, Paxton's lawsuit will quickly go away. 

Therefore, it's quite possible that the only thing Paxton has really accomplished, aside from pandering to the GOP base, is wasting taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit, which would seem contrary to the avowed principles of the tea party. Of course, Paxton has also ensured that he will go down in history as someone who sought to preserve the right of employers to legally fire gay people who want to take unpaid leave to care for ailing loved ones. Truly, this lawsuit is one of the more disgusting displays of anti-gay bigotry from any elected official in recent memory. 

View some of the responses Paxton has received on Twitter, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Federal Judge Blocks Gay Workers in Four States From Taking Unpaid Leave To Care For Sick Spouses" »

#BoycottIndiana Continues to Grow In Wake of Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Law

PenceThe backlash against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's decision yesterday to sign into law a bill allowing businesses to discriminate against individuals based upon religious beliefs is growing (and growing, and growing).

Yesterday we told you about the CEO of Salesforce, a global cloud computing company that made over $5 billion in total annual revenue last year, announcing that he would be canceling all programs that require travel to Indiana. Similarly, the NCAA released a statement saying it would be re-evaluating its relationship with Indiana in the wake of the new "license to discriminate" law and a change.org petition is already underway asking the NCAA to move the Big Ten Football Championship out of Indianapolis. 

Outsports founder Cyd Zeigler, meanwhile, has pledged to ask every person he does business with in Indianapolis next weekend during the Men's Final Four match-up whether or not they have a problem serving LGBT people.

And these are just the tip of the backlash iceberg Pence has brought to his state. Politicians, businesses, advocacy groups, actors and more are speaking out.

Check out some of the big names joining #BoycottIndiana, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "#BoycottIndiana Continues to Grow In Wake of Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Law" »

George Takei Eviscerates Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for Signing Anti-gay 'Religious Freedom' Bill


George Takei, who earlier this week threatened to boycott Indiana if the state's anti-gay "religious freedom" bill became law, tore into Gov. Mike Pence on Facebook today after Pence added his signature to the bill.

PenceWrote Takei:

I am outraged that Gov. Pence would sign such a divisive measure into law. He has made it clear that LGBT couples, like Brad and me, are now unwelcome in his state. The notion that this bill was not driven by animus against our community is belied by the record and frankly insulting. I will join many in demanding that socially responsible companies withdraw their business, conferences and support from his state and that LGBTs and our friends and supporters refuse to visit or do business with Indiana. It is a sad day for the Hoosier state, and indeed for the many good people of Indiana, for whom this law now stands as a terrible blight upon that state's reputation.

Gen Con, which sent a sent a letter to Pence threatening to pull its $50 million gaming convention out of Indianapolis should he sign the bill, is currently drafting a follow-up response to today's news.


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