Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who is considering a second run for president in 2016, has blamed “the militant gay community” for the pressure brought to bear this week on Indiana and Arkansas, after those states passedreligious freedom laws that critics say encourage discrimination against LGBT people.
“There’s been more pressure this week to put sanctions on Indiana than Iran,” Huckabee said, referring to the announcement by the Obama administration of a controversial deal regarding the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as passed last week, the state could not create legislation that infringed on a person’s religious beliefs – with a definition of “person” that included businesses, associations and other organisations. As the LGBT community was not deemed to be a protected class, the bill was interpreted by its opponents as a way for persons, businesses and organisations to legally discriminate.
Protests from big business – including Walmart and Apple, the latter through an emotive Washington Post op-ed piece written by CEO Tim Cook, who is gay – and pressure from politicians and activists across the US led to a firestorm of controversy. In one high-profile instance, the owners of a Walkerton, Indiana pizza parlour who said they would not cater gay weddings reportedly went into hiding, while supporters raised more than $500,000 on their behalf.
On Thursday, Governor Mike Pence signed off on amendments to the law that outlawed discrimination against LGBT people; Indiana’s measure had made it the 20th state with similar legislation. Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson also signeda revised version of his state’s law.
Appearing on CNN on Saturday, Huckabee told host Michael Smerconish: “The reason that those corporations put the pressure on Indiana andArkansas was because the militant gay community put the pressure on them.
“I found it a little hypocritical when you have companies – even, and I love Walmart, big company in my home state – but they do business in China, for gosh sake. I mean, I don’t think the Chinese are exactly the paragon of human rights.
“And I think these corporations really ought to either be consistent – quit making money from these countries that are really oppressing human rights, and quit bowing to the pressure – and just sell their stuff. That’s what they’re in business for.”
Huckabee, who showed strongly in the early Republican primaries in 2008, has a strong following among evangelical voters. Earlier this week, appearing on a talk radio show produced by the rightwing Christian Family Research Council (FRC), he said: “The left has gotten very good at creating a crisis, something to divide the country. . . . .