Interesting. Former Speaker of the House Davy Carter, a Republican of Cabot, has asked the Arkansas House to vote against HB 1228 when the bill comes back up for a vote tomorrow.
This afternoon on Twitter, he wrote:
Respectfully, I would like to publicly encourage the members of the @ArkansasHouse to vote against #HB1228
HB 1228 is the controversial “conscience protection” bill that would make it easier to discriminate against LGBT people in Arkansas under the auspices of religious freedom. Here’s more information about HB 1228 and its surrounding firestorm.
To my knowledge, Carter is the most prominent Arkansas Republican to publicly oppose the bill. Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Benton), who is a nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, initially voted to advance HB 1228 out of a Senate committee but later switched his vote to a “No” when the bill came before the full chamber.
Carter has long been a voice of moderation in his party. He’s well-respected — as the 2013 session ended and Carter was term-limited out of the House, there was hopeful talk in some circles of that he might run for governor — but he’s also sometimes derided by activists among the GOP base for being insufficiently conservative.
Carter was named regional president of Centennial Bank after his final House term ended, a position I presume he still holds. That’s important because the business community in Arkansas has been far too silent on HB 1228, with Axciom and Walmart being notable exceptions. As debate over a similar bill in Indiana has unfolded, it’s attracted denunciations from businesses in that state and the Chamber of Commerce. Not so in Arkansas. Max asked yesterday in a post, “where are the bankers, chamber of commerce executives and major corporate leaders?”
Well, here’s one at least. Will more follow? The fact that Davy Carter is both a notable Republican and a leader in the business world makes his willingness to speak up for civil rights all the more impressive.