CNN host Jake Tapper grilled the sponsor of Arkansas' controversial religious freedom bill Wednesday evening, asking him repeatedly on-air for clarification on what the bill exactly does.
"The Lead" host opened the segment posing a theoretical scenario to state senator Bart Hester, asking if the bill would allow a Christian florist to deny service to a same-sex couple.
He didn't seem to get a straight answer.
"Well, I think that's two different questions to me. I think it does not allow for discrimination in any way, and it does not allow for a florist to discriminate against a gay couple looking for flowers. Now, what I think it does allow is for a florist who has a strongly held religious belief to be able to hold that belief close and not participate in the message of a homosexual wedding or ceremony. I think the First Amendment is very close to all of our hearts in America, it's part of the cornerstones of who we are."
The response didn't satisfy Tapper.
"See, this is what I don't understand with supporters of this type of legislation. Would it allow for the florist to not give the flowers to the same-sex couple or not?" the CNN host pressed. "You are saying almost two things."
"You're saying that there's no discrimination, but the Christian conservative doesn't have to participate in the ceremony they find objectionable," Tapper added. "It's just one or the other. I'm just trying to figure out what it does. I'm not judging the legislation."
Hester responded, "I think to be clear, it does not allow for someone to discriminate and I think they should absolutely serve a homosexual couple. It also lets them hold their personal religious beliefs close on a message — and that message would be they don't support the homosexual wedding."
Tapper continued pressing Hester, searching for an answer.
"But how are they going to stay true to their conservative Christian beliefs and also not discriminate? This is what I don't get here. Are you saying they can hold true and not participate in an event they don't find holy, that they think is objectionable or sinful? Or are you saying they have to? I'm confused," Tapper said.
"Well, it's not a confusing issue at all. The First Amendment is not a confusion," Hester replied. "We have the right to freedom of speech, we have the right to hold our strongly held religious beliefs close to us."
The segment continued in a similar pattern for the next few minutes with Tapper continuing to grill Hester on whether or not the bill permits religious individuals to draw upon the First Amendment and refuse service to certain individuals. The Arkansas lawmaker, however, stuck by his talking points until the end.
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter