On CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, an Arkansas lawmaker behind a bill similar to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) repeatedly refused to explain how his bill is not discriminatory against the LGBT community.
Arkansas state Senator Bart Hester (R) who sponsored the bill, tap-danced around requests by host Tapper, insisting instead that he is against discrimination and stating the bill only allows Christians to “hold their beliefs close” by refusing to participate in the “message of a gay wedding.”
Earlier in the day, Arkansas Governor sent the bill back to the Republican-controlled state legislature for a rewrite to better balance tolerance for diversity and protections of religious freedom.
With the bill being reviewed, Tapper asked Hester to explain how exactly the bill would be put into practice.
“If there is a conservative Christian florist, would it allow that florist to deny serving a gay couple who wants flowers at their wedding?” Tapper asked.
“That’s two different question to me, ” Hester replied. “I think it does not allow for discrimination in any way. And it does not allow a florist to discriminate against a gay couple looking for flowers. Now what I think it does allow, is for a florist that has a strongly held religious belief to be able to hold that belief close and not participate in the message of a homosexual wedding or ceremony. I think the 1st Amendment is very close to all of our hearts in America, and it’s part of the cornerstones of who we are.”
“This is what I don’t understand with supporters of this type of legislation. Would it allow the florist to not give flowers to the same-sex couple or not?” a puzzled Tapper replied. “You’re saying almost two things. You’re saying that there’s no discrimination, but the Christian conservative doesn’t have to participate in a ceremony they find objectionable. It’s just one or the other. I’m just trying to figure out what it does, I’m not judging the legislation.”
“I think it does not allow someone to discriminate, ” Hester parried. “I think they should absolutely serve a homosexual couple. It also lets them hold their personal religious beliefs close on a message. And that message would be they don’t support a homosexual wedding.”
An exasperated Tapper attempted to draw out an answer from the lawmaker several more times, at one time saying, “I’m just trying to figure out what it does,” only to receive variations of the previous answers but nothing addressing the question of discrimination.
Watch the video below, uploaded by Media Matters for America:
WATCH: Arkansas lawmaker repeatedly refuses to admit that denying service to gays is discriminatory