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The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, seen by its many critics as a monumental setback to LGBT equality, was ratified by the Arkansas Legislature on Tuesday. Those opposed to the bill assert that it will permit business owners to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people on religious grounds.

The bill, known as HB1228 or RFRA, will go into effect this week regardless of whether Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs it.

As Human Rights Campaign’s Legal Director Sarah Warbelow told The Huffington Post, Tuesday’s decision mirrors the recent legislation in Indiana. “The Arkansas and Indiana bills are virtually identical in terms of language and intent,” Warbelow said. “They place LGBT people, people of color, religious minorities, women and many more people at risk of discrimination.”

In both cases, the act has provoked widespread outrage, as The New York Times reports:

Business executives, notably leaders of tech companies like Apple and Yelp, have spoken out against the law, and Angie’s List cited it in canceling plans to expand its facilities in Indianapolis. Entertainers have canceled tour dates in the state, a gaming convention is considering going elsewhere and the governors of Connecticut, New York and Washington have imposed bans on state-funded travel to Indiana.

So-called “religious freedom,” warns the bills’ vast opposition, comes at the cost of massive exclusion.

Even the White House has criticized the bill. “This piece of legislation flies in the face of the kinds of values that people all across the country strongly support,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told members of the press at his daily briefing Tuesday.

–Posted by Roisin Davis


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