Last-minute pleas that Gov. Asa Hutchinson
veto SB 202, the gay discrimination legislation
, won't affect the outcome.
I inquired of his press spokesman, J.R. Davis, if there was any chance the governor might change his position to allow the bill to become law, albeit without his signature.
The succinct response:
The Governor's position will not change.
The legislation was adopted last Tuesday. I believe it becomes law tomorrow. It prohibits local governments from protecting the civil rights of gay people. Pending is an even broader bill that would protect discrimination against gay people at the local and state level by any who desire not to do business or interact with gay people. I've asked if the governor has an opinion on that bill yet, which has also been the object of criticism from a number of civil liberties and religious groups.
The House bill presumably would allow legislators to invoke a religious defense if they tried to bar a gay person from serving in government, perhaps even attending their meetings.
Though the bill becomes law today it doesn't take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, likely in August.
Talk is already underway of the potential for a legal challenge. Perhaps even a referendum campaign. A petition drive gathering 6 percent of legal voters' signatures within 90 days after the law took effect would put the law on the ballot in 2016, but also delay its effective date until then.