Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Arkansas passes bill which favors anti-gay discrimination

Last week, unfortunately, Arkansas became a sort of ground zero in the future of lgbt equality.

According to The Huffington Post:

On Friday, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 57-20 in favor of a bill that would bar cities and counties from sanctioning LGBT anti-discrimination laws.

Arkansas state Sen. Bart Hester (R), who sponsored the bill, told BuzzFeed News that creating uniform policies across the state will attract businesses and that he was angered by one city’s repeated attempts to expand rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

 . . .  Hester told BuzzFeed News that it isn't just LGBT individuals who are singled out for discrimination. “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.”

 The bill's stated goal 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. Currently, Arkansas does not have LGBT protections at the state level.

The bill, SB202, had already cleared the state senate the preceding Monday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has told several news sources that he would not sign the bill but allow it to become law by not vetoing it.

According to Buzzfeed:

Rep. Clarke Tucker, a Democrat, blasted the bill as a “proactive act of discrimination.”
Tucker also challenged the premise that it was good for business, pointing out that the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies protect LGBT employees and may avoid moving their businesses to Arkansas. “If we pass this legislation,” Tucker warned lawmakers, “we will be sending a message that we are out of step with corporate culture today in 2015.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the legislation presents a huge problem in how it was written. According to the International Business Times:

Since the bill doesn’t explicitly single out LGBT people, groups like students and veterans may also be set up for discrimination in Arkansas, according to Holly Dickson, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas’ legal director. “In targeting LGBT people, they have cast a wide net and prevented protections for a wide variety of groups,” she said.

However, organizations who have made opposition to lgbt equality their goal disagree with Dickson. In an email sent on Monday, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said:

 Under a handful of ordinances around the country, local governments have used these proposals as an excuse to trample Americans' freedom of belief -- and punish small business owners like cake makers who morally object to participating in same-sex "weddings." In other places, the measures have become a privacy and safety nightmare for parents, who shudder to think of their daughters sharing public restrooms, showers, and locker rooms with grown men who abuse the "gender identity" language to prey on the opposite sex.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has already said that he'll let the bill become law, which gives conservatives -- not just a victory, but a roadmap for other states to do the same. Our hats go off to Arkansas leaders for paving the way in the fight to uphold the freedom of every American, regardless of their religious views.

There is a website asking that Gov. Hutchinson veto the bill.  It features a  letter from David Collins, who is the openly gay brother of Arkansas legislator Charlie Collins. Rep. Collins supports the bill.

In the letter, Collins says:

I can speak out against discrimination and ask Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto SB202 on the grounds that it only serves to discriminate and divide Arkansas. I can encourage the people of Arkansas to contact Governor Hutchinson to work toward a better solution. If the goal is, as Bart Hester suggests, “to create consistent policies across Arkansas that will attract business” then show real leadership and veto this bill and work together with my brother to create a bill that protects all workers from discrimination in the workplace which will attract new workers and new companies, instead of repel them.

I can also hope that Charlie understands that the decisions he makes and the votes he takes are not just political, they are personal and they affect people in ways he couldn’t possible imagine because he’s never had to deal with the oppression of a society that treats you differently because of who you are attracted to and who you love.

1 comment:

Mark H. said...

Thank you for getting the word out on this. Form those of us in AR whose brains still work, it is greatly appreciated.