Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas announced that he was not going to sign the first version of his state’s Religious Freedom Act—the anti-gay version—and said that his son, Seth Hutchinson, had signed a petition on Facebook asking him not to. Many people have assumed that the governor decided not to sign the bill when he found his son was opposed to it. People have praised him for this—the governor’s actions seem to show caring and respect for his son—but some have been skeptical. Michelangelo Signorile says Gov. Hutchinson sent the bill back to the legislature, “claiming that his son—who’d written a heartfelt Facebook post coming out against the law—had him reevaluating, as if he’d never spoken to his son before.”
Well, did they—that is, talk about LGBTQ issues before this week? According to The Times, Seth Hutchinson “became interested in gay rights [around age fifteen] at about the same time, when friends began discussing their sexual orientations and after the arrest of an art teacher, who was gay.” After that, “Mr. Hutchinson had robust political discussions with his father even as a high school student, long before their views diverged so vastly.” Consider the situation. A man and his son have known each other all the son’s life. The man has known the son’s opposition to any actions that hurt the LGBTQ community, even though the son is not gay. The son has been very public in supporting LGBTQ causes, and the father must have known about these very public activities.
What seems to be true is that while Seth Hutchinson was steadfast in his support of LGBTQ people, his father, the governor, seems almost as steadfast in seeking ways to injure LGBTQ communities, and while it has been widely known that the Hutchinson family had intense discussions of these political questions, it can be assumed that sometime between Seth’s age 15 and now, when he is 31, the subject of gay rights entered the discussion. Since it is probably true that these two men knew of each other’s views on LGBTQ rights, it is improbable that the governor would have changed his plans to hurt the LGBTQ communities just because Seth Hutchinson signed a petition on Facebook. The Times reports “I did not sway my dad,” [Seth Hutchinson] said. “I think my dad is rethinking this because of the pressure that’s coming at him from all sides.”
The father changed his plans because he saw that he couldn’t get away with them without serious damage. To protect himself and the viability of his administration, he used his son as cover, implying that he was reevaluating because his son wrote something on Facebook.
We are left to conclude that Gov. Hutchinson lied, and, in fact, isn’t moved to anything by his son. His plan had been to sign the legislation even though he knew his son was opposed to any action that would hurt gay people, and didn’t sign the legislation for the obvious reason that he was being overwhelmed by the backlash the legislation caused. He then used Seth as protection. This is reprehensible. Gov. Hutchinson apparently has no respect for the person who is his son.
Save your praise for Asa Hutchinson. This man abused both his son and the community of LGBTQ people, and would be doing it still, if he had been able to get away with it. He was defeated, not by a loving son, but by the LGBTQ community, who are, as we have said here before, fierce fighters.