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OPINION: Veto remarks hit a 'sore spot' in state's history

by Maylon Rice | April 14, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

History, as it always does, will have the final say in any legislation passed or passed over in every legislative session.

This past week saw our Governor hold a press conference saying he was to veto a new act approved by both the state Senate and the House of Representatives concerning medical or pharmacological procedures for the gender reassignment protocols of underage children.

It was and still is an emotionally charged issue.

And it always will be.

The veto was issued and in less than 48 hours, the lead sponsors of the legislation had called for a swift override of the governor's veto.

And the override votes were indeed stronger than the votes to pass such a proposal into law in the first pass of this legislation through the dual chambers of our elected officials.

Why?

Well, many lawmakers, who were "soft" on the issue were suddenly cast in the bright, hot, white light of voting on issues affecting children and also on the issue of chemically or surgically helping children or their parents to choose another sexual orientation from that of their birth status.

Some legislators who heard the governor's veto speech were just a little miffed at the governor and his staff for not intervening in the legislative process a little earlier – rather than wait until the bill was passed. The session is over three-fourths of the way complete, this bill has been hanging around for weeks with little or no indifference coming from the administration.

Was the administration contemplating the bill's failure? Now all of a sudden, the Governor is concerned, citing the uniqueness and newness of this legislation (the first such bill in the nation) as a real reason NOT to approve such a bill.

The sponsors of the bill did not just blindly offer a law without some witnesses to testify the bill was needed.

Overarching all of those concerns are the bigger questions of is the 93rd General Assembly passing some form of "hateful" legislation aimed at a minutely small social class in our state and why?

It is hard, some say, to say not.

Others, very quickly and very passionately, say the inference is true that Arkansas' Legislature has a thinly veiled displeasure of the LGTB community and is passing laws on every level to harm this community in our state.

Somewhere, as always, in the middle of this issue lays a truer sense of what is happening and why it is happening.

Perhaps most glaring among all these day-after-day, emotionally hand-wringing over this and other trans-gender issues, were the last-minute pleas from Arkansas' largest retail employer and mega-giant multinational retailer, Walmart.

The Walton Family Foundation, the arm of the Walton Family, finally emerged with a statement backing Gov. Hutchinson on his veto of this legislation.

Those in the legislature who have a passing admiration for the founding generations of the Walton family, have suddenly, over the passage of time, seen proof positive how only if it is good for Walmart, is it good for Arkansas emerged as a mantra issue from on high in Bentonville.

This time the legislature was like many of us, slack-jawed that Walmart and its third-generation spokesman would meekly come to the governor's aid with a mealy-mouthed public relations press release rather than send its lobbyists and others to a barrage of calls to stop this override.

The media, of course, was split on this decision; it is always easy to find a spokesperson for either side – or even both – that is qualified, informed and passionate about the central issue of human rights. It is often harder to find those who truly want to stop such practice or those who are in the mix of having this crisis ongoing with their own children to be involved in these procedures to be open minded and fair in any response.

Like I said at the outset, an emotional issue is often best left for history to judge its right or its wrong in the context of the times in which the Arkansas General Assembly had to decide an issue.

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