GOP Arkansas Sen. Bart Hester hopes to keep targeted discrimination against gay and transgender Americans legal.
Lawmakers in a second state have now decided to pass legislation that bans any jurisdiction statewide from enacting ordinances to protect LGBT citizens against discrimination in things like housing and employment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar law unconstitutional in 1996, but that doesn't matter to Arkansas Republicans. The state Senate passed the anti-LGBT measure 24-8; it now heads to the House for consideration.
Lawmakers suddenly felt a sense of urgency after the city of Fayetteville passed protections for LGBT residents that voters later repealed last December. From the AP:
“This anti-LGBT bill is aimed at punishing the Fayetteville mayor and city council who sought to provide all of the city’s residents with non-discrimination protections.” HRC spokesman Hubert Tate said.
Republican Sen. Bart Hester, who proposed the legislation, said it is intended to standardize laws across the state, which he said is just as important as civil rights.
“What we need to do in the state of Arkansas is create a uniform and standardized process for any business to come in,” Hester said.
Tennessee already has such a law and Texas is considering one
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Colorado measure in 1996 in a landmark LGBT case, Romer v. Evans. The fresh crop of retro laws attempt to get around the Romer ruling by simply outlawing any measures that ban discrimination not already prohibited by state law, rather than specifically prohibiting pro-LGBT ordinances.
The Republican Gov., Asa Hutchinson, hasn't indicated whether he would sign such a law. He demonstrated some sympathy for the idea that local lawmakers ought to be able to enact laws as they see fit for their localities.
“I think any conservative has some hesitation and preference over local control, but there are some issues that override that,” Hutchinson told reporters. “Part of it is consistency for our business community so they have similar rules they have to operate in all across the state. The preference is always local control, but there are certain issues that override that and I think that’s the debate on this legislation.”