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Arkansas Governor Receives Anti-Gay Bill He Plans to Let Become Law Without His Signature

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has taken receipt of SB202, a bill passed by the state legislature last week which prohibits Arkansas municipalities from passing non-discrimination laws protecting people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

HutchinsonHutchinson's office told Buzzfeed this afternoon: "As the Governor stated Friday regarding SB202, he will allow the bill to go into law without his signature."

The bill would go into law if Hutchinson refuses to sign or veto it within five days (excluding Sunday).

HRC Arkansas has called for the bill's veto.

Said HRC Arkansas State Director Kendra R. Johnson in a press release:

“The Governor has the power to tell the nation that Arkansas welcomes all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Senate Bill 202 destroys local control and denies municipal governments the ability to pass civil rights protections for people in their cities. Discrimination is not an Arkansas value, and the Governor should take swift, immediate action to veto SB202. Governor Hutchinson has said he will not sign the bill and will allow it to become law. That is an indication that even he has pause for concern on this anti-LGBT bill.”

National HRC President Chad Griffin, an Arkansas native, has not yet commented on the bill and there are no signs the national organization plans to engage on it.

The WaPo adds:

It’s called the “Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act,” and it’s written in the key of dog-whistle. The bill contends that, in order for the state to attract businesses, each of its cities and counties must follow the same rules about who they permit discrimination against...

...There is some question about whether the Arkansas legislation is even constitutional. Rep. Clarke Tucker (D ) argued on the House floor on Friday that SB 202 violates the Equal Protection Act.

Earlier today, we reported on an open letter written by Donald Collins, the gay brother of Arkansas Rep. Charlie Collins, who voted to approve the bill, scolding his brother for supporting discrimination. The letter was posted on VetoSB202, a 'take action' site which appeared over the weekend which provides phone numbers and contact information to Hutchinson's office.


Gay Brother of Bigoted Arkansas Lawmaker Pens Open Letter Calling For Equality

Headshot

Donald Collins married his partner Anthony about a year ago in a small city hall wedding with his parents as witnesses.

This weekend he penned an open Valentine’s Day letter meant both for his husband and for his family. Though Collins’s parents and lesbian sister all openly support and affirm his marriage, his brother, Charlie, has been a vocal opponent of LGBT equality in Arkansas, where he serves as a House Representative for the 84th district.

“My brother, Arkansas House of Representative Charlie Collins (District 84), cast his vote Friday in support of the SB202 in part because of what he called an 'overreach' by the Fayetteville City Council, the town where he lives and represents in his district,” Collins wrote of his brother. “What’s incredible to me is that my brother supported this bill even though he has a gay brother and a lesbian sister."

”Rather than working for fairness and support by following the lead of more than 300 major businesses that have adopted inclusive, non-discriminatory protections because they know it’s good for business, my brother and the other Arkansas legislators who voted for SB202 chose to move their state backward with a bigoted, hurtful bill that by Hester’s own admission is a reactionary one in the face of growing acceptance and political power of the LGBT community."

Read Donald Collins’s full letter urging his brother to reconsider his political positions HERE.


LGBT Activists Stage Valentine's Day Protests In Arkansas, Kansas: VIDEO

Kansas

It used to be a tradition for same-sex couples to protest marriage bans on Valentine's Day — often by requesting licenses from clerk's offices. 

But now that marriage equality has arrived in 37 states, the focus has shifted. 

Instead of seeking legal recognition of their relationships, LGBT people are demanding that they be protected against discrimination based on who they are and who they love. 

On Saturday, activists in Arkansas and Kansas spent part of their Valentine's Day protesting decisions by Republican governors that effectively sanction anti-LGBT discrimination. 

In Kansas, nearly 1,000 people gathered outside the statehouse to protest Gov. Sam Brownback's decision to rescind an executive order protecting LGBT state employees. The Kansas rally featured some colorful signs and costumes. 

In Arkansas, about 70 people gathered outside the governor's mansion to call on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto SB 202, which would prohibit cities from passing LGBT protections. 

View more images and watch news reports on the two rallies, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "LGBT Activists Stage Valentine's Day Protests In Arkansas, Kansas: VIDEO" »


Gay Arkansas Couples File Lawsuit Seeking Recognition Of 'Window' Same-Sex Marriages

Arkansas

Two Arkansas same-sex couples filed a lawsuit Friday against the state attorney general seeking to have their "window" marriages recognized. 

The couples were among about 600 who wed during a weeklong period in May after a circuit court judge struck down the state's marriage ban, and before the Arkansas Supreme Court put the ruling on hold

The Washington Blade reports: 

One of the plaintiff couples in the case is Angelia Frazier-Henson and Katherine Henson; the other is Markett Humphries and Dianna Cristy. Both are Pulaski County residents and wed on the first day same-sex marriage was available in Arkansas.

According to lawsuit, the state requires these plaintiffs to “commit a Class C felony in order to comply with Arkansas law requiring the filing of individual income taxes.” To make things more complicated, Humphries is a law enforcement officer and committing perjury “could result in the loss of her employment.”

The lawsuit alleges that denying recognition of these couples’ unions violates their right to due process and equal protection under both Arkansas Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The litigation calls for the court to enjoin Arkansas from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriages with respect to couples who wed during that week-long period in May. 

The Blade notes that the federal government has never announced it would recognize the Arkansas marriages, even though it has done so for so-called window marriages in other states, including Utah, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. 

In November, a federal district judge also struck down Arkansas' marriage ban, but put the decision on hold pending the state's appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court. 

In related news, Arkansas LGBT advocates staged a love-in Saturday afternoon outside the governor's mansion to protest a bill banning local nondiscrimination ordinances. The bill has passed both the House and Senate, and Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson says she plans to allow it to take effect without her signature.

Ground zero for LGBT equality may have just shifted from Alabama two states to the west. 

Read the Arkansas' couples lawsuit seeking recognition of their marriages below:

255702036-60CV-15-569-Complaint


Arkansas Legislature Passes Bill Banning LGBT Non-Discrimination Laws

Arkansas

The Arkansas House of Representatives has just voted 57-20 on a bill that would prevent cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people.

The bill passed the state Senate 24-8 Monday. Governor Asa Hutchinson is not expected to veto the bill.

Buzzfeed reports:

“This bill creates uniformity for business, and citizens for that matter, that our employment laws will be the same throughout the state,” Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger, the bill’s house sponsor, said on the house floor. “There are some things on a statewide basis we deal with all the time, such as murder and fraud — a variety of things that need to be uniform,” he said.

Rep. Clarke Tucker, a Democrat, blasted the bill on the House floor as a “proactive act of discrimination.”

Tucker also challenged the premise that it was good for business, by pointing out the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies protect LGBT employees and could avoid moving their businesses to Arkansas.

“If we pass this legislation,” Tucker warned before the vote, “we will be sending a message that we are out of step with corporate culture today in 2015.”

After the state Senate vote earlier this week, a defiant Eureka Springs City Council passed LGBT protections for residents. 


Eureka Springs Passes LGBT Protections, Tells Arkansas Legislature To 'Bring It On'

Eureka

Hours after the Arkansas Senate voted to prohibit cities from passing LGBT protections, the City Council in Eureka Springs — known as "the gay capital of the Ozarks" — thumbed its nose at lawmakers by doing just that. 

The Arkansas Senate voted 24-8 Monday to prohibit cities from adding protected classes to nondiscrimination ordinances that aren't included in state law. Senate Bill 202, which now goes to the House, is a direct response to Fayetteville's decision to pass an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, which was later overturned at the ballot box. 

The Associated Press reports: 

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.

The proposal was approved on a mostly party line vote, with three of the Senate's 11 Democrats voting for the bill. The state Democratic Party issued a statement opposing the measure, and the top Democrat in the chamber portrayed the restriction as hypocritical compared to Republicans' rhetoric.

"If Washington passed something like this and passed it down to the states, we would scream about federal overreach," said Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram.

If SB202 becomes law, Arkansas would be the second state to prohibit cities from banning anti-LGBT discrimination. The other is Tennessee, where the law is being challenged in court by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Colorado's ban on gay protections, saying it was unconstitutional for legislators to target a specific group. 

In response to the state Senate's passage of SB202, the City Council in Eureka Springs rushed through an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance on Monday night. The council also passed a resolution opposing SB202 and an emergency clause to make the ordinance effective as soon as possible.  

Arkansas Online reports: 

BerryEureka Springs Mayor Robert D. "Butch" Berry [pictured right] said he'll sign the ordinance today or Wednesday after document changes requested by the council have been made and a fresh copy of the eight-page ordinance is available. When that happens, Eureka Springs will become the only city in Arkansas with such an ordinance. ...

At Monday's council meeting, City Attorney Tim Weaver said SB202 is written to prevent the enforcement of city ordinances like the one the council was discussing. ...

Council member Mickey Schneider asked if Weaver meant the city would likely be sued by the state.

"I'm not saying the state's going to sue you," said Weaver. "It's more likely to come from a right-wing group."

"That's even better!" said Schneider. "Bring it on!"


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