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Arkansas Senate Passes Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Bill, Governor Asa Hutchinson Says He'll Sign

An Indiana-style bill allowing individuals to discriminate based on religious beliefs has just passed the Arkansas Senate. Arkansas Online reports the bill first heads back to the House to consider amendments added on the Senate side before heading to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk.

Hutchinson said Thursday he intends to sign the bill. 

HRC reacts via statement:

HutchinsonToday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and HRC Arkansas condemned the Arkansas senate's passage of H.B. 1228, an Indiana-style bill that will open the door to discrimination against LGBT people, people of color, religious minorities, women and other minority groups across the state. After a formal procedural hurdle, the bill will be on its way to Governor Asa Hutchinson's desk. HRC has repeatedly called on the governor to veto this legislation, including at a press conference featuring HRC president Chad Griffin yesterday.

"This bill is a poison pill for jobs and investment in the state of Arkansas, and Governor Hutchinson has a duty to veto it," said HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin following the Senate vote. "If he does not, his reputation will be forever stained and the people of the state of Arkansas will suffer for his willingness to cater to a small political faction whose sole intent is to discriminate against their fellow Arkansans."

The bill has been opposed by Wal-Mart, Apple, and the Arkansas Municipal League for weeks. Yesterday, following the enactment of a similar bill in Indiana, a wave of high-tech companies like Yelp and Salesforce -- precisely the kinds of investment Governor Hutchinson has said he hopes to attract to the state -- have condemned this kind of legislation.

At a press conference today in Little Rock today, HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin announced that the...

Posted by HRC Arkansas on Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jon Stewart ripped into the bill in a segment last week. Civil rights legend Julian Bond has also spoken out against the bill, saying:

"H.B. 1228 in Arkansas opens the door to a hateful past that some had thought this country had left behind. This legislation cloaks discrimination in the guise of religion--and it will mark people of color, LGBT Arkansans, religious minorities and women as second class citizens. Governor Hutchinson has a duty and a moral obligation to veto this legislation or the ghosts of the past will haunt his legacy."

Hutchinson's office can be reached at 501-682-2345. 

Senate passes HB1228 and the amendment goes back to the House for final approval. This bill is on a fast track to the...

Posted by HRC Arkansas on Friday, March 27, 2015

 


Yelp's Open Letter Warning to States Considering Discriminatory 'Religious Freedom' Bills Is Must Read

StoppelmanWhile the list of corporations, politicians and celebrities boycotting Indiana grows, the CEO of Yelp is taking preemptive action to ensure other states understand the economic consequences of choosing to move forward with discriminatory "religious liberty" bills.

In an open letter penned on the Yelp official blog, CEO Jeremy Stoppelman warns that his company "will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books."

Stoppelman writes:

A little over one year ago I wrote an open letter to then-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer requesting that she veto SB 1062, a bill that would have allowed businesses in the state to discriminate against consumers. Thankfully she did the right thing and vetoed that legislation, thus maintaining Arizona’s status as a hospitable place for Yelp’s employees to live and for our company to do business.

Since that time, however, legislators in other states have sought to pass, or have enacted, laws that would allow for businesses to discriminate against consumers based on certain traits including sexual orientation. While Indiana is the most recent state to enact a law allowing for this kind of discrimination by businesses, unfortunately measures are being debated in other states across the country that would follow Indiana’s example. These laws set a terrible precedent that will likely harm the broader economic health of the states where they have been adopted, the businesses currently operating in those states and, most importantly, the consumers who could be victimized under these laws.

Just as I said in my letter to Governor Brewer, it is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.)

I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions. In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books.

I also hope that other companies will draw a similar line in the sand for equality on behalf of their employees and the greater public to persuade legislators to do the right thing and stop or rescind these harmful laws.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Stoppelman

CEO, Yelp

In related news, civil rights leader and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond has released a statement blasting Arkansas's proposed bill, saying:

H.B. 1228 in Arkansas opens the door to a hateful past that some had thought this country had left behind. This legislation cloaks discrimination in the guise of religion--and it will mark people of color, LGBT Arkansans, religious minorities and women as second class citizens. Governor Hutchinson has a duty and a moral obligation to veto this legislation or the ghosts of the past will haunt his legacy."

Earlier today, we told you about the campaign to prevent a similar "license to discriminate" bill from becoming law in Georgia.  


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

MillerFinal

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

Arkansas_

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" »


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