The Arkansas legislature passed a sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination bill, and is sending it to Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk. The bill (SB 202) passed by the Arkansas Senate bans cities and counties in the state from passing or enforcing laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The stated goal of the legislation, billed as an “emergency” bill, is to improve intrastate commerce by making it illegal for state businesses, organizations or employers to implement or enforce policies outlawing discrimination on grounds not covered in state law. At the current time, Arkansas does not have lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender protections at the state level.
Arkansas state Sen. Bart Hester (R), who sponsored the bill, said that creating uniform policies will make doing business across the state easier. He has also expressed his personal beliefs on the subject. According to The Huffington Post (2.13.15), one city’s repeated attempts to expand rights for LGBT individuals had made him angry.
Hester had acknowledged that LGBT people can be targeted for discrimination, but he specified, “we are all singled out for discrimination.” According to Buzzfeed (2.11.15), he added, “I am singled out as a politician. I am singled out because I am married to one woman… I want everyone in the LGBT community to have the same rights I do. I do not want them to have special rights that I do not have.”
According to Sen. Hester, LGBT citizens should not be protected from being discriminated against in housing, employment, education and other situations, even when needed. It is worth noting again that the bill does not actually refer to LGBT individuals. That would be unconstitutional. What the bill says is that local governments are banned from extending civil rights protection to “any class not covered in state law.”
Arkansas would be the second state with such a law. Tennessee authorized anti-discrimination restrictions in 2011, reported The Huffington Post.
The House also passed a bill (HB 1228) that would let business owners refuse to serve certain customers if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. For example, a religious bakery owner could refuse to serve customers attempting to buy a cake for a same-sex wedding. The bill next goes to the Senate, reported Buzzfeed.
Attorney at Law David Perecman agrees with civil rights advocates who say the state legislature’s actions as not only unjust but bad for business. Lawyers at The Perecman Firm represent people who have faced discrimination in the workplace, including LGBT employees.
The Huffington Post article cited is “Arkansas House Votes In Favor Of LGBT Discrimination.”
The Buzzfeed article cited is “Arkansas Legislature Expected To Pass Law Allowing LGBT Discrimination.”