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Arkansas Democrat Responds To Hateful Anti-Gay Law With Proposal To Add Statewide LGBT Protections

Leding

Two weeks after a draconian anti-LGBT law took effect in Arkansas, a Democratic state legislator has introduced a measure that would effectively trump it. 

Last month, Gov. Asa Hutchinson allowed SB 202 to become law, making Arkansas only the second state to prohibit cities from adding protected classes to nondiscrimination ordinances that aren't already included in state law.

SB 202, of course, was aimed squarely at the LGBT community in direct response to Fayetteville's decision to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination ordinance — a decision later overturned by voters

Now, a Fayetteville Democrat has introduced a bill that would override SB 202 by adding LGBT protections to state law. The Associated Press reports: 

A legislator is proposing expanding Arkansas' anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity after a new law said local ordinances couldn't go beyond what's spelled out in state law.

Democratic Rep. Greg Leding (above) of Fayetteville on Monday proposed adding the protections to state law addressing discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. The state law currently includes race, religion, national origin, gender and disability.

Given the makeup of the Arkansas Legislature, Leding's bill has virtually zero chance of passing. However, it could very well represent the ultimate solution to bills like SB 202.  

The fact is that municipal nondiscrimination ordinances such as the one passed in Fayetteville don't have much teeth anyway. And laws like SB 202 — or a similar one that passed in Tennessee in 2011 — are difficult to challenge in court. So what we really need are statewide — or in the case of red states, more likely federal — protections. 

Kudos to Leding for standing up to bigots in the Arkansas Legislature and giving a symbolic middle finger to SB 202. 


Texas Lawmaker's Gay Son Responds To Father's Arkansas-Style Anti-LGBT Bill

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The other day we told you about an Arkansas-style anti-LGBT bill that's been introduced in the Texas Legislature. 

The proposal from GOP Rep. Rick Miller (above left) would prohibit cities from adopting or enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people. The proposal is nearly identical to Arkansas' Senate Bill 202, which became law last month. But the Texas bill would have a far more sweeping effect, undoing LGBT protections that have passed in cities with a combined population of more than 7.5 million, including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Plano and San Antonio. 

As it turns out, Texas' Rep. Miller has a gay son, Beau Miller (above right). 

From The Texas Observer

Rep. Miller’s son, Beau Miller, an openly gay 41-year-old Houston attorney, is an HIV and LGBT activist.  Miller said he was “extremely disappointed” to learn about his father’s bill.

“If the bill progresses through the Legislature, I’m sure there will be a robust conversation about the impact not only on minority communities, such as the LGBT community, but also on local rule in Texas,” Beau Miller said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Miller provided this explanation for his proposal, according to the Observer:

“HB 1556 will prevent local governments from expanding business regulations beyond limitations established in state law,” Miller told the Observer. “Competing and inconsistent local ordinances interfere with economic liberty and discourage business expansion. By promoting instead of restricting business growth, this bill is about job creation and an improved state economy, both of which have a direct, positive impact on Texas citizens."

Beau Miller later posted the following Facebook:

As many of you know by now, my dad has authored and submitted a bill in the Texas House of Representatives that, if signed into law, would prevent municipalities in Texas from maintaining sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws. While I love my dad very much, I am extremely disappointed by his actions and will do everything I can to prevent that bill, or any such legislation, from becoming law.

I have been in fairly intense talks with my dad and his office about this issue. Although I am hopeful that I can persuade him to agree to not pursue this bill’s advancement, that outcome is far from certain. If anyone would like to help in this effort, I suggest writing to him about yours or a friend’s experience with discrimination and how it felt. To that end, and with full recognition of the deep emotions at play, please do not match hate with hate, or engage in name calling or insults. It does not help. Those type of communications tend to do more harm than good.

This is also a time to reflect on the fact that while marriage equality is in sight, the fight for justice and civil rights for all is far from over. It is at these times we should all remember Martin Niemöller’s poem: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

On an even more personal note, I would like to thank my amazing partner and friends for your unconditional love and support. This would be so much tougher without you.

Beau

You can contact Rep. Miller at 512-463-0710 or Rick.Miller@house.state.tx.us.

 

 


Arkansas Cities Unite To Protest Discriminatory Law Banning Local LGBT Protections: VIDEO

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Residents in Little Rock and North Little Rock, Arkansas are taking matters into their own hands to protect the rights of gay people after the state last month passed a law banning local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

On Monday night, leaders in North Little Rock unanimously voted to revise city policy to state their commitment to fair and equal opportunities regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information or marital status.

Meanwhile in Little Rock, businesses are leading the charge against House Bill 1228 which would allow companies to refuse service based on religious principles. Business owners have started posting a small decal (above) that reads "we serve and hire equally" on their front windows.

Ed David, the owner restaurant The Faded Rose, said:

"The only people we discriminate against are bad actors. I know what a bitter feeling it is when somebody turns you away and I just swore I'd never do that."

Republican Rep. and 1228 sponsor Bob Ballinger (above) said that although he is “not in the business of judging other people,” “religious protections are something that's necessary.”

Arkansas is the second state to pass such a measure. Tennessee has a similar law on the books that was passed in 2011.

Watch a report on the Little Rock protest against House Bill 1228, AFTER THE JUMP...

Previously, "Conway, Arkansas Approves LGBT Rights Ordinance Despite Discriminatory New State Law" [tlrd]

Continue reading "Arkansas Cities Unite To Protest Discriminatory Law Banning Local LGBT Protections: VIDEO" »


Texas Lawmaker Introduces Arkansas-Style Ban On Local LGBT Protections

Miller

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a draconian anti-LGBT bill almost identical to the one that became law in Arkansas last month. 

The proposal from GOP Rep. Rick Miller (above) would prohibit cities from enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that include protected classes not contained in state law. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

Texas law doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. If passed, Miller’s bill would undo LGBT protections passed by numerous cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano. Altogether more than 7.5 million Texas are covered by such ordinances. 

Miller’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

HB 1556 is more specific than a similar measure introduced by Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas). Huffines’ SB 343 would bar cities from enforcing any ordinances that are more stringent than state law, unless otherwise authorized by statute.

In Arkansas last month, a similar bill became law without the governor's signature. Grassroots activists criticized national LGBT organizations for not doing enough to oppose the Arkansas measure, SB 202, which was drafted in direct response to Fayetteville's passage of an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.  

It will be interesting to see if things are any different in Texas. 

Read the full text of HB 1556, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas Lawmaker Introduces Arkansas-Style Ban On Local LGBT Protections" »


Conway, Arkansas Approves LGBT Rights Ordinance Despite Discriminatory New State Law

Arkansas

Following a 6-2 vote Tuesday by the city council, city employees of Conway, Arkansas can (for the time being) go to work with the assurance that they can’t be fired for their sexuality or gender identity. Conway mayor Tab Townsell threw his full support behind the decision to extend protections to the town’s LGBT population despite many of his more conservative constituents voicing concern for their religious liberties.

Mark Ledbetter and Mary Smith, the two council members who opposed the new protections, expressed their belief that the public had not been given adequate time to fully appreciate the implications of heightened job security for Conway’s queer workforce.

Conway’s move to legally protect its LGBT employees comes just days after Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson allowed SB 202 to become law - legislation that expressly forbids local town governments from enacting pro-LGBT policies like Conway’s. Specifically SB 202 requires that:

“A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.”

The law is set to go into effect 90 days after the state Legislature formally adjourns, which is currently set for May. After that, Conway's ordinance will no longer protect LGBT folks. 

One of the chief concerns raised by opponents of SB 202 was the chilling effect that sanctioning discrimination against queer workers might have on the local economy. Following Hutchinson’s decision representatives from Tyson Foods and Walmart both spoke out on behalf of their companies, expressing their disagreement with the law.

Outcry from large LGBT advocacy organizations like the HRC were conspicuously missing immediately after SB 202 went into effect, prompting Michael Signorile to claim social “malpractice.” Not seizing upon any and all opportunities to draw attention to these kinds of injustices, Signorile reasoned, was irresponsible and linked to a broader sense of gay complacency:

“And it's part of the right's plan to roll back LGBT rights while many LGBT people become complacent or apathetic, buying into this idea that full civil rights are inevitable, pointing, for example, to polling about young people being more accepting, and, well, doing pretty much what many women foolishly did in the early years of the backlash against women's liberation.”

HRC President Chad Griffin soon issued an official statement after widespread criticism for his organization's silence on the developments in Arkansas:

"I’m proud to call Arkansas my home state—the place where my entire extended family has lived for years. I know these bills do not reflect the Arkansas values.

They certainly do not reflect this state’s commitment to growing a 21st Century economy that attracts good paying jobs—and to guaranteeing a business climate that welcomes everyone who is willing to work hard and build a better future for themselves and for their community. These kinds of political attacks have been rejected by Republicans and Democrats all across this country. Let’s not let Arkansas be dragged backward by an unrepresentative minority."


Matt Baume Tackles Arkansas' New Anti-LGBT Law and the Terrifying Roadmap Towards Future Discrimination: VIDEO

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In a follow-up video to last week's yummy fireside chat on the ongoing "cake wars" and why bakeries in certain states can't refuse to do business with gay folks, Matt Baume tackles Arkansas' new law banning local governments from passing LGBT anti-discrimination protections.

Taking viewers on a trip back in time to uncover the insidious origins of the bill, Baume reveals how the benign-sounding "Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act" could very well serve as a blueprint for future anti-LGBT laws across the country. 

As Baume says, if there's anything we learned from Star Wars Episode I, it's that "the best way to conceal a great evil - an evil that can shake a Republic to its very foundations - is to make it incredibly boring."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Matt Baume Tackles Arkansas' New Anti-LGBT Law and the Terrifying Roadmap Towards Future Discrimination: VIDEO" »


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