Arkansas received criticism from all directions last week after its Republican-controlled statehouses passed a bill allowing business owners the right to refuse service to homosexuals on the grounds of religious freedom.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had made statements during the week about his intentions to make the bill a law, told lawmakers the language needed reworking. This led to the passing of a new amended law appeasing those opposed to discrimination in the guise of religion.
The question of ethics — one’s obligation to (not) love and help anyone with a beating heart — is unfortunately an ambiguous one to our legislators. But because the majority of our representatives’ objectionable views on the question were disabused by a goaded governor, we’ll turn to the influence such a law could have had on the state economy.
It came as no surprise that just hours after Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said legislators should not pass this bill as is, the governor announced he would not make it law until such a reevaluation of nomenclature took place.
The world’s largest retailer is in no danger of abandoning its home state. Instead, big businesses will set policy behind the scenes. This is how lobbying and politics work. But when lawmakers pass laws restricting individuals’ rights to receive goods and services, the voices of businesses will start being heard in the public sphere.
The original bill was nothing other than a bad business model justified by closely held religious convictions. The principle of inclusion is what drives consumers to buy products. So businesses protected by law in exercising exclusion among those demanding a certain product cut the economy off at its source.
The Republican houses of a Republican state can only pander so much to its party’s extreme right and social conservatives. A law outside of reason that could affect the state’s pocketbook will always be done away with.
Money dictates both what is passed into law and which of those laws are deemed morally OK for the general consuming public. The recent reversal of legislation in Arkansas is perhaps the most overt example of this inseparable relationship.
It’s been circulating that 20 other states have similar laws allowing refusal of service, but the maelstrom in Arkansas and Indiana will cause each state to reconsider its legislation on the issue. New generations force out defunct social mores, and the thousands of protestors at the capital in Little Rock are the impetus behind this shift in the societal framework.
To be on the conservative side of this could-have-been law is to be on the wrong side of history. We need look no further than the civil rights movement for evidence on how denying rights to a marginalized people’s group ends up.
Rep. Bob Ballinger of Hindsville, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation is necessary to protect religious freedoms that citizens have guaranteed to them by the First Amendment.
“We’re going to allow a person to believe what they want to believe without the state coming in and burdening that unless they’ve got a good reason to do so,” Ballinger told the House Judiciary Committee, according to published reports.
But it is now also clear that this side is oppositional to the interests of businesses already established within the state and those considering bringing their business to Arkansas.
In a system that protects the codependency of the economic-legislative relationship, it is foolish to pass a law to the detriment of the state’s income. Money shows no biases, so neither should our laws.