Arkansas Governor's Son Finds Himself in Middle of Religious-Freedom Debate
Seth Hutchinson says he's happy his father declined to sign Arkansas bill.
By CHRIS GOOD
April 1, 2015, 10:07 PM
• 4 min read
-- When Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declined to sign his state's religious-freedom bill today, sending it back to the legislature for changes, he prompted some celebration from businesses and gay-rights activists.
The Republican governor cited his son as one of the reasons for his decision.
"It has divided families, and there is clearly a generational gap on this issue," Hutchinson said. "My son Seth signed the petition asking me, dad, the governor, to veto the bill."
Seth, 31, is a union organizer in Texas, who told The New York Times he worked on his father's campaigns as a child but disagrees with him on matters of policy these days. As the governor pointed out, families don't always see things the same way.
The younger Hutchinson said he's glad his father is asking the state legislature to change the bill, known as HB 1228, and that he told his father of his opposition to the bill.
"I’m proud to have made a small contribution to the overall effort to stop discrimination against the LGBT community in Arkansas, the state that I love (Go hogs!). I love and respect my father very much, but sometimes we have political disagreements, just as many families do," Hutchinson wrote in a statement posted to Facebook and provided to ABC News.
"Most importantly, I hope that the groundswell of grassroots opposition to HB 1228 and other similar discriminatory bills around the country will energize more Americans and help create a long-lasting drive for change in this country, on many issues. We must build a mass movement of Americans fighting for economic, environmental, and social justice if we want to see real progress," Seth Hutchinson wrote.
That last part might now have a chance of happening in Arkansas, as the elder Hutchinson referenced a coming and continuing debate over whether to add sexual-orientation protections to state nondiscrimination laws -- a measure LGBT-rights activists have pushed for in Indiana and elsewhere.
Like the bill signed into law by Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence last week, the Arkansas bill states that religious beliefs held by people and companies in the state can't be burdened by government, or in civil disputes, unless there's a higher threshold of government interest in applying the relevant laws.
Social conservatives have heralded the measures as protecting Christian wedding vendors, for instance, from having to serve gay weddings -- as well as protecting other religions from governmental infringements. Pro-LGBT-rights activists have said the measures advance an atmosphere of discrimination and that Indiana should amend its law to insist gays and lesbians can't be denied services and pass a statewide law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.