A bill seeking to prohibit cities and municipalities in Arkansas from enacting LGBT non-discrimination ordinances is expected to go into effect tomorrow after Governor Asa Hutchinson said Friday he plans on letting the bill become law without his signature.
National organizations are now finally calling on Gov. Hutchinson to veto what they call an "unconstitutional" law meant to single out LGBT people for discrimination, but it may be too little too late.
The following statement is a portion of the response from the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arkansas, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, and National Center for Lesbian Rights:
SB 202 was passed to thwart cities like Little Rock and Eureka Springs that recently have enacted sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination protections, and like Fayetteville, which tried to do so. So if Governor Hutchinson allows this bill to take effect, it will amount to a giant, flashing "Gays Stay Away" sign. It will block sincere local efforts to show that Arkansas communities are welcoming places beckoning talent, innovation and workforce diversity. It will do precisely what Arizona's Governor Brewer decided to avoid last year when she vetoed that state's "discrimination as religion" bill. […]
SB 202 is misleadingly called the "Intrastate 30 Commerce Improvement Act." But make no mistake — this bill is not about alleviating drags on commerce within Arkansas, and no one truly thinks it is. A bill with that goal might, for example, reduce the variation in municipal tax rates and other local rules that actually can bedevil businesses. But it's not burdensome for businesses to treat gay and transgender people fairly. In fact, dozens of research studies have found again and again that ending discrimination, and supporting diversity, is good for business.
So the real purpose isn't helping businesses, it's targeting LGBT people. This is obvious from the sponsors' consistent and constant claims that this is needed because of an ordinance in Fayetteville that provided protections for LGBT people. And as in Arizona last year, the speed of the bill has meant the critiques are now coming in a wave after the legislature whizzed the bill through.
This eleventh hour effort by Gay Inc. hasn't gone unnoticed by activists, however. In a column Friday on HuffPost, Michelangelo Signorile blasted gay leaders for not speaking out louder, sooner and warned the bill could become a template for future anti-gay efforts across the nation:
The passage of a draconian, stealthily worded anti-gay bill set to become law in Arkansas, with little resistance from the national business community, and muted response from even national LGBT leaders and figures such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, raises two very important questions: 1) Have gay leaders become so cocky, so deluded by victories that they don't see the backlash organizing right in front of them (or do they see it, but have some foolish, toothless plan to battle it that is equally fed by their delusions)?; 2) Has the anti-gay right found its gay "version" of "partial birth abortion," or is it at least coming close to it as it tries out various strategies through trial and error?
He also lit into HRC and Arkansas-based corporations for remaining silent on the bill:
No matter if you lose, you must always show the opposition you will put up a nasty fight. Instead, HRC's Sainz and its President Chad Griffin, who hails from Arkansas and has thought nothing of rushing back for a photo op when local activists have had wins in the past, have said absolutely nothing about it. Nor have they clearly put the pressure on business leaders like Walmart, headquartered in Arkansas, and which likes its 90% HRC Corporate Equality Index score, to speak out. And we haven't seen any comment from Bill Clinton, for whom Griffin used to work in the White House, or Hillary Clinton, for whom Griffin will raise millions of dollars in a presumed presidential race, as he did for Obama.
On Friday, 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.
In 2011, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a similar bill into law.