Walmart issued a statement late Monday making clear its opposition to a brand new anti-gay law in its home state of Arkansas which bans cities and counties from expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents say the measure is aimed at blocking moves to protect gays in the state.
A spokesman for the world’s largest retailer which is based in Betonville, Arkansas, said the law runs counter to its beliefs and “sends the wrong message about Arkansas.”
“The Conscience Protection Act” was passed last week in both the state House and Senate, which Republicans control with significant majorities. It became law on Monday, and will take effect in 90 days.
“There is nothing but discriminatory intent here,” the ACLU said in a press release. “And no valid public interest can possibly be served by allowing private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics that might be covered by local ordinances.”
Sunday night, Cher weighed in on the bill, accusing the governor of “hanging the LBGT community out to dry”:
Why am I not surprised That Asa Hutchinson, Gov of Arkansas,is hanging LBGT community out to dry⁉️
— Cher (@cher) February 22, 2015
But activists say current Arkansas law affords little protection for the LGBT against discrimination in housing, employment and commercial services.
A principal sponsor of the legislation, Representative Bob Ballinger, said the issue at stake was religious liberty.
“Religious practices are not protected the way they should be,” said Ballinger, a Republican. “This is about protecting individuals and business owners with deeply held religious convictions.”