Arkansas governor signs religious freedom bill into law

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a revised version of a state religious liberty bill on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

The move came after he unexpectedly told legislators on Wednesday that he would not sign the version on his desk, amid a firestorm of controversy over a similar law in Indiana.

Hutchinson asked state lawmakers to make revisions to the bill that would more closely align it with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law in 1993 by then-President Clinton.

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The Arkansas law and one in Indiana have sparked opposition from groups who say they would allow businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers.

Critics of the measure expressed hope that a revised version of the bill would alleviate those concerns. Hutchinson declined to say Wednesday whether he would support making lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people a protected class under state law.

A similar bill in Indiana, signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence (R), brought a strong backlash from the public and businesses, which threatened to cast a pall over the final four games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, being held in Indianapolis.

The Arkansas bill has faced the same criticism. Wal-Mart, which is based in the state, decried the law, as did former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D), who is expected to run for president in 2016.