Little Rock-based Acxiom, the $1.15 billion data marketing company, has asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a so-called “religious freedom” bill.
In a letter faxed and emailed to Hutchinson, Acxiom CEO Scott Howe and executive vice-president and legal counsel Jerry Jones acknowledge that Hutchinson has said he will sign HB 1228 into law, but they say they are hopeful Hutchinson “will exhibit the courage and leadership necessary to do the right thing and veto this bill.”
This is much more significant than Apple or Yelp weighing in. Acxiom employs 4,500 people worldwide, a third of which are based in Arkansas*. Hutchinson touts his efforts to require Arkansas students to learn to code. He thinks it’ll boost Arkansas’s economy in the long run. In the meantime, the largest technology company in Arkansas calls HB 1228 bad for business.
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“We are not alone in the belief that the bill is a deliberate vehicle for enabling discrimination against the LGBT community and should not become law, as it effectively re-establishes that shameful period before Civil Rights, when some used religious beliefs as thinly veiled justification for discrimination against our fellow citizens.
HB 1228 is not wise … from a business perspective — we have seen that it has already created a backlash in the business community of our country and is certain to bring ridicule and derision, if it becomes law. This bill is at direct odds with your position that “Arkansas is open for business.”
*A previous version of this post used employment numbers that couldn’t be verified tonight and incorrectly suggested that most of the company’s workforce was based in Arkansas.
PS –– Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola sent Max Brantley an e-mail late this evening saying he’d written Gov. Hutchinson asking him to veto the legislation. He seems to expect a medal for arriving at least two months late to the fray over discrimination, despite repeated calls here for him to take a leadership role. Fayetteville and Eureka Springs have taken action. Stodola dithers.