Arkansas Bill Would Remove Arkansas Cities’ Right to Self-Govern and Stop Equality

LITTLE ROCK--Today, HRC Arkansas condemned the introduction of Senate Bill 202, which would stop cities and towns across the state from enacting local ordinances that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans from discrimination.  If enacted, this deeply flawed bill would become a highly ineffective policy that would prevent hardworking LGBT Arkansans from being able to live their lives free from fear or discrimination.

“This is an attack on liberty and democracy, pure and simple,” said HRC Arkansas State Director Kendra R. Johnson.  “Local leaders in Arkansas should be allowed to choose what’s right for their own city or town.  It’s crystal clear that the motivation for this bill is to stifle local efforts to advance equality for LGBT Arkansans.  Not only is it wrong, this explicit attempt at legislative overreach is discriminatory, dangerous, and fundamentally un-American.”

This proposed legislation distorts the democratic process and stops local elected leaders from being able to craft their own solutions to problems they believe should be addressed. Not only that, but there is clear evidence that proves sustainable growth is highly correlated to a city’s stance on being inclusive of all people.  This proposed bill would hinder the ability of Arkansas cities and towns to attract new workforce talent and private sector investment. This legislation also sets a dangerous precedent. If passed, state legislators would open the door to constant misuse of their authority and municipalities would fear overrule of all types of municipal ordinances for no good reason.  This would put a chilling effect on the ability of municipalities to manage their own affairs.

According to a 2014 survey of LGBT people in Arkansas, almost 60 percent of respondents have called the state home for more than 20 years. However, a quarter of those answering the survey have experienced employment discrimination, 37 percent have experienced harassment at work, and half have experienced harassment on the street. LGBT Arkansans currently have no state or municipal level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations.It remains perfectly legal under Arkansas law to fire LGBT people from their jobs, refuse to rent to them, or to kick them out of a restaurant or hotel.  Senate Bill 202 ensures this form of discrimination in Arkansas will remain the law of the land.

HRC Arkansas is working to advance equality for LGBT Arkansans through legal state recognition for their relationships and families; state rights to jointly adopt children; and state protections from hate crimes. Through HRC Arkansas, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.

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