The recent uproar over the proposed HB 1228, which led to the passing of an amended version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has been all over state and national news in the past few weeks.
During that time, many Arkansans, including UCA students and faculty, made a point to become involved in the issue.
While the unclear language and media hype over the act caused concern that the legislation could lead to LGBT discrimination, the real concern should be keeping residents fully and clearly informed of the intended purpose of proposing new legislation.
This situation showed that Arkansans will make it apparent to our politicians that we will remain involved, and, as a result, our senators and representatives paid attention.
It can and has been said that the original bill would set our state back in establishing basic human rights issues.
However, the bill’s language never proposed any specific change in this area; it just did not address this as a major concern for Arkansan residents.
There was concern from some senators and representatives that religious freedoms were not protected concretely in Arkansas law, but it was not handled in a manner clear enough to the public to understand its true intention.
If anything, it caused concern that legislation should be introduced to specifically protect against religious freedoms that were being used to discriminate.
Whether you support religious freedom laws or whether you think this law was created to allow discrimination, there’s something to be said about the action Arkansas residents took and the reaction from our state legislature.
HB 1228 was all set to be signed into law when Gov. Asa Hutchinson made a last-minute decision to reconsider the bill’s wording.
This was, in part, because of his son’s recommendation and words of caution from Democrats and even some Republicans.
For whatever reason, it remains that when residents get involved and voice concern, our politicians listen.
We should be proud that our voices still matter to our state government and be proud that people were not afraid to let those voices be heard.
Regardless of how anyone felt about the actual bill, we can at least say that our residents did not sit back and allow legislation to pass without proper public support.
Take this action and subsequent government reaction as an example of what you, as a resident, can do to affect change and pressure authoritative powers to respect your concerns.
After all, this act was amended for clarification based on mass confusion over its intended purpose and future implementations.
If there’s something you want to see changed or made publicly transparent, make your interest known and others will join you.
As we saw with this proposition, keeping the conversation open between legislators and the public is something Arkansas residents need to keep a closer eye on.
This bill did not have vast public support, and yet it almost slipped through.
When first proposed, it seemed entirely unnecessary to protect something that is clearly protected under federal law, so no one knew what consequences it might bring or what could be lurking in the gray areas.
Continue to be mindful of your influence as a resident, and we can continue to work toward avoiding unnecessary or confusing legislation and keeping legislators in check.