Showing posts with label Arkansas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arkansas. Show all posts

February 27, 2017

Arkansas LGBT Anti Discrimination Law is Axed by Court





Arkansas joins Indiana

On Thursday, Supreme Court justices struck down an Arkansas LGBT anti-discrimination law.
The city had created an ordinance banning discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Several other liberal communities in northwest Arkansas followed suit after a controversial bill was signed into law two years ago. The legislation had made it illegal for townships and cities to create protections not already outlined by the state.
Some detractors of the Arkansas law claim it’s engineered specifically to enable discrimination against the LGBT community. Governor Asa Hutchinson approved the measure shortly after being elected in 2015 amidst a national outcry. Although the politician refused to sign the bill at first, he also declined to use the veto power to prevent it from becoming effective. He later signed a reworked version of the same into law in April. The legislation – formerly SB 202 – was proclaimed by conservatives to be a victory for religion freedom. Arkansas State Senator Bart Hester was vocal about how the bill would allow his constituents to practice what they preach.
“[It’s] for the individual to decide for themselves,” Hester said in 2015. “They cannot discriminate against an individual. They can discriminate against a message they don’t feel comfortable with.”
Hester likened businesses being obligated to serve LGBT customers to asking “a Jewish baker to put a Nazi swastika on a cake.”
Nearby Indiana had passed a nearly-identical “religious freedom” law before Arkansas. However, the recent Supreme Court ruling has changed the name of the game for residents of The Natural State. While the striking down of Fayetteville’s ordinances doesn’t render the regulations of other towns and cities moot, it does set a disturbing precedent.
Civil rights representatives and activists have said they’ll now focus on fighting the constitutionality of the Arkansas prohibition in lower courts. Last year’s nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage lends credence to the idea that prejudice against gays and lesbians shouldn’t be tolerable in the twenty-first century.
The Washington Post summarized the legal opinion of the Supreme Court, noting the justices had written other state laws regarding bullying couldn’t be related to anti-discrimination law without creating “new protected classes.” Columnist Andrew DeMillo mentioned that such an endeavor ran counter to the intent of the religious freedom law passed in 2015.
“Fayetteville’s ordinance violates the plain wording of Act 137 by extending discrimination laws in the city of Fayetteville to include two classifications not previously included under state law,” the justices wrote. “This necessarily creates a nondiscrimination law and obligation in the city of Fayetteville that does not exist under state law.”
No matter how unfair the ruling may be from an ethical and secular perspective, it does align with Arkansas law.
The justices said they couldn’t comment on the law’s constitutionality or lack thereof without it having first been challenged in a lower court. Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams said he plans to fight the 2015 legislation directly.
Tennessee and North Carolina also bar communities from incorporating ordinances which protect the rights of LGBT citizens.

Ryan Farrick is a freelance writer and small business advertising consultant based out of mid-Michigan. Passionate about international politics and world affairs, he’s an avid traveler with a keen interest in the connections between South Asia and the United States. Ryan studied neuroscience and has spent the last several years working as an operations manager in transportation logistics.

July 30, 2014

Gays in Arkansas are being victims of discrimination and harassment.


                                                                          

A survey by a prominent gay rights group asserts that large numbers of gays and lesbians in Arkansas report having been the victims of discrimination and harassment. The group is now pushing for legal protects for the LGBT community in the state with support from one prominent Democrat, but a Republican member of the Arkansas legislature is saying not so fast.

In the survey released Monday (July 28) by Human Rights Campaign — the largest such survey conducted of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, trans-gendered) individuals in Arkansas' history, the group said — a fourth of all respondents reported employment discrimination, while another 37% described harassment in the workplace.


The report from HRC notes that 38% of LGBT households earning less than $45,000 annually have experienced workplace harassment, while 43% of respondents said they had been harassed at "public establishments." The reported said 45% of those surveyed experienced harassment of some sort at school, with 44% saying that harassment was most common in high school. A full third of LGBT students in rural areas reported being harassed on a weekly basis at their schools.

"To address these disparities, earlier this year, HRC launched Project One America," a press release from HRC said. "With the goal of improving the lived experience of LGBT people, Project One America will work to change hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections, and build more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace."

As part of its work in the state, HRC on Monday named Kendra Johnson as state director for HRC Arkansas, where Project One America Director Brad Clark said she would work with Arkansas' elected officials to affect change in the state's hearts and minds and laws.

“Kendra has the vision to create a strong Arkansas community by working with various local leaders across the state,” Clark said. “She has the experience to bring LGBT Arkansans the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas Family Council, said even though the survey from HRC may show that individuals feel as though they've been discriminated against, he said to his knowledge there has not been a single reported case of an individual being discriminated against "or thrown out of a restaurant because they were go."

“It's a solution in search of a problem," he added. 

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said the results of the survey show that Arkansas should advance some sort of legal protections for the LGBT community though he doubts such legislation will occur before his time in the legislature is up at the end of 2016.

"I do think we need to take some action. However, I don't think any legislation would stand a chance in the current (Republican-controlled) legislature," he said. "I think nationally, we clearly see opinion trending toward acceptance and equality. I think that's just the arch of the universe with past struggles. We're moving in that direction. Arkansas has lagged, but even here I see us moving in that direction (toward acceptance)."

But Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, said passage of a law targeted at prevention of discrimination against gays and lesbians would create "special protections" that were unnecessary.

"I guess that would be my question, is what special protection do they need? There are already anti-discrimination laws that are available. I don't see where they would see that they would need special protections."

But Leding pointed to laws he said were specifically designed to discriminate against gays and lesbians as part of the reason why protections were needed.

"Obviously, I'm a pretty big proponent of doing away with the 2004 constitutional ban on marriage equality," he said. "The law forbidding unmarried couples from adopting, even though it didn't name gay couples, that's who they were targeting. And that's been repealed."


Arkansas' ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, though it is not binding pending an appeal of the ruling. But the decision to stay Piazza's ruling did not come before hundreds of gays and lesbians married at courthouses across the state.

Where Leding said action needs to take place is locally, where city and county ordinances could be passed that would hopefully spur representatives of those communities in the legislature to act on a statewide level.

Leding's own city of Fayetteville is considering an ordinance that would protect LGBT citizens in the community from discrimination, according to a report from the Arkansas Times. Leding said even without the bill having passed, the conversation it has sparked within the Fayetteville community is a positive step forward for LGBT citizens in the city and in Arkansas.

 
"It has sparked some debate here in the community," he said. "I believe the mayor has expressed support. I know members of the council have. I've heard some mixed comments, too. Some in the business community think it is necessary. Some don't. But I'm glad the community is having the conversation, regardless of whether it passes or not. I think something could be done on a statewide level, certainly after I'm gone. But what will help drive that change more quickly is local communities passing ordinances similar to what's under consideration here in Fayetteville. That helps move things up the ladder."

But for all the talk of equal rights for gays and lesbians, Meeks said being a member of the LGBT community is a choice and therefore should not be afforded the same anti-discrimination protections as other groups, such as African-Americans.

"Laws should apply equally and fairly to everyone. This is why I would disagree. There are current protections in place, like for race. We can't decide our race or nationality. Those are things we have no choice over. These other things, people have a choice as far as their sexual preferences, so forth. So if we keep making these special exemptions or rules for these groups, where does it end?”

July 29, 2014

Lg. Numbers Gays in Arkansas victims of violence and discrimination



                                                                         

  
 A survey by a prominent gay rights group asserts that large numbers of gays and lesbians in Arkansas report having been the victims of discrimination and harassment. The group is now pushing for legal protects for the LGBT community in the state with support from one prominent Democrat, but a Republican member of the Arkansas legislature is saying not so fast.

In the survey released Monday (July 28) by Human Rights Campaign — the largest such survey conducted of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, trans-gendered) individuals in Arkansas' history, the group said — a fourth of all respondents reported employment discrimination, while another 37% described harassment in the workplace.


The report from HRC notes that 38% of LGBT households earning less than $45,000 annually have experienced workplace harassment, while 43% of respondents said they had been harassed at "public establishments." The reported said 45% of those surveyed experienced harassment of some sort at school, with 44% saying that harassment was most common in high school. A full third of LGBT students in rural areas reported being harassed on a weekly basis at their schools.

"To address these disparities, earlier this year, HRC launched Project One America," a press release from HRC said. "With the goal of improving the lived experience of LGBT people, Project One America will work to change hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections, and build more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace."

As part of its work in the state, HRC on Monday named Kendra Johnson as state director for HRC Arkansas, where Project One America Director Brad Clark said she would work with Arkansas' elected officials to affect change in the state's hearts and minds and laws.

“Kendra has the vision to create a strong Arkansas community by working with various local leaders across the state,” Clark said. “She has the experience to bring LGBT Arkansans the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas Family Council, said even though the survey from HRC may show that individuals feel as though they've been discriminated against, he said to his knowledge there has not been a single reported case of an individual being discriminated against "or thrown out of a restaurant because they were go."

"It's a solution in search of a problem," he added.

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said the results of the survey show that Arkansas should advance some sort of legal protections for the LGBT community though he doubts such legislation will occur before his time in the legislature is up at the end of 2016.

"I do think we need to take some action. However, I don't think any legislation would stand a chance in the current (Republican-controlled) legislature," he said. "I think nationally, we clearly see opinion trending toward acceptance and equality. I think that's just the arch of the universe with past struggles. We're moving in that direction. Arkansas has lagged, but even here I see us moving in that direction (toward acceptance)."

But Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, said passage of a law targeted at prevention of discrimination against gays and lesbians would create "special protections" that were unnecessary.

"I guess that would be my question, is what special protection do they need? There are already anti-discrimination laws that are available. I don't see where they would see that they would need special protections."

But Leding pointed to laws he said were specifically designed to discriminate against gays and lesbians as part of the reason why protections were needed.

"Obviously, I'm a pretty big proponent of doing away with the 2004 constitutional ban on marriage equality," he said. "The law forbidding unmarried couples from adopting, even though it didn't name gay couples, that's who they were targeting. And that's been repealed."


Arkansas' ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, though it is not binding pending an appeal of the ruling. But the decision to stay Piazza's ruling did not come before hundreds of gays and lesbians married at courthouses across the state.

Where Leding said action needs to take place is locally, where city and county ordinances could be passed that would hopefully spur representatives of those communities in the legislature to act on a statewide level.

Leding's own city of Fayetteville is considering an ordinance that would protect LGBT citizens in the community from discrimination, according to a report from the Arkansas Times. Leding said even without the bill having passed, the conversation it has sparked within the Fayetteville community is a positive step forward for LGBT citizens in the city and in Arkansas.
  
"It has sparked some debate here in the community," he said. "I believe the mayor has expressed support. I know members of the council have. I've heard some mixed comments, too. Some in the business community think it is necessary. Some don't. But I'm glad the community is having the conversation, regardless of whether it passes or not. I think something could be done on a statewide level, certainly after I'm gone. But what will help drive that change more quickly is local communities passing ordinances similar to what's under consideration here in Fayetteville. That helps move things up the ladder."

But for all the talk of equal rights for gays and lesbians, Meeks said being a member of the LGBT community is a choice and therefore should not be afforded the same anti-discrimination protections as other groups, such as African-Americans.

"Laws should apply equally and fairly to everyone. This is why I would disagree. There are current protections in place, like for race. We can't decide our race or nationality. Those are things we have no choice over. These other things, people have a choice as far as their sexual preferences, so forth. So if we keep making these special exemptions or rules for these groups, where does it end?”

 by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

May 16, 2014

Judge Strike down ALL anti gay marriage bans in Arkansas


                                                                            

A day after being overruled by the Arkansas Supreme Court, the county judge who struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage issued a broader decision Thursday that clears the way — at least temporarily — for such unions to resume.
In Idaho, a federal appeals court stepped in to halt same-sex marriage, which was to begin Friday. Tuesday, a U.S. judge declared the state's ban unconstitutional.
In Arkansas, the attorney general said he would appeal Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling, which voids a constitutional ban on clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Wednesday, the state's top court said his decision Friday striking down constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage did not affect the licensing law.
Piazza refused to suspend his earlier decision, saying same-sex marriages would not harm the state.
"A stay would operate to further damage Arkansas families and deprive them of equal access to the rights associated with marriage status in this state," he wrote.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat who supports gay marriage but is defending the state's law, will ask the high court to suspend Piazza's latest order.
Pulaski County planned to resume issuing licenses to same-sex couples immediately. Washington County, the only other jurisdiction that had issued licences before the Supreme Court's intervention, did not follow suit Thursday.
Out west, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended a federal judge's order declaring Idaho's 2006 voter-approved ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.
"I appreciate the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stepping in to ensure Idaho will not have to endure the same kind of chaos and confusion that Utah faced after a similar lower-court decision," Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement. "Today's ruling stays the federal magistrate's order and maintains the status of marriage as defined by the Idaho Constitution – between one man and one woman."
Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia
Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Contributing: Associated Press

May 12, 2014

Political, Legal gains for Gay Marriage in Arkansas



                                                                           
LITTLE ROCK } Nearly a decade after Arkansas voters overwhelmingly approved a same-sex marriage ban, gay rights supporters are enjoying a rare combination of legal and political gains in their fight to have the prohibition struck down.
A judge's ruling on Friday that that the 2004 marriage amendment was unconstitutional, plus Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's declaration that he supports marriage equality, hardly signal a final victory for gay marriage supporters. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's decision opens the door for a months-long fight before the state Supreme Court, and few statewide elected officials appear ready to follow McDaniel's lead.
But the moves are viewed as progress for a movement that so far has enjoyed few victories in the courthouse or the ballot box.
Piazza didn't immediately stay his ruling, and the state's first marriage licenses to same-sex couples were issued the morning after the decision. Saying the marriage ban violated the state and U.S. constitutions, he invoked a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Virginia case that invalidated laws against interracial marriage.
"It has been over 40 years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples," Piazza wrote, referring to the 1967 case. "It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.”
Piazza's ruling is a breakthrough for gay rights supporters who have had limited victories in Arkansas. Piazza played a major role in one of those wins, striking down an initiated act voters approved in 2008 barring unmarried couples from serving as foster or adoptive parents for children. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld Piazza's ruling against the act, which was aimed primarily at same-sex couples.
The gay marriage ruling came almost a week after McDaniel announced that he now supports marriage equality but would continue defending the marriage amendment in court. McDaniel, a Democrat serving his final year in office, became the first statewide elected official in Arkansas to support gay marriage.
"I sincerely doubt I'll be the last," McDaniel said during his May 3 speech at the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors convention.
It would be easy to dismiss McDaniel's conversion as politically convenient for someone not on the ballot this year. Once seen as a shoo-in for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, McDaniel dropped out last year after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a Hot Springs attorney.
His announcement also didn't prompt an outpouring from other statewide elected officials in Arkansas following his lead. The state's top Democrats, including Gov. Mike Beebe and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, say they still believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Most polling has shown heavy opposition to same-sex marriage in the state.
Supporters of the ban said Piazza undermined voters.
"Something is terribly wrong when a judge can overturn a good law that was passed in a statewide election by 75 percent of the people," said Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Family Council. "This is another example of a judge substituting his personal preference for the will of the people."
McDaniel is also careful to distance himself from other attorneys general who have refused to defend their states' bans, saying he doesn't believe he should let his personal opinions influence his job as the state's top lawyer.
But McDaniel's support for gay marriage could be a sign that he's betting that attitudes toward gay marriage in Arkansas will eventually follow the shift seen nationwide. Though McDaniel said he has no future campaigns planned, he's still viewed among Democrats as a viable candidate for statewide office some day. And his election this year as a national committeeman for the Democratic Party signals he still plans on staying involved in state politics.
McDaniel's reasoning depends partly on how things turn out: whether opponents of gay marriage will regret their stance as attitudes change. McDaniel said he wanted to avoid following the legacy of former Attorney General Bruce Bennett, who didn't fight then-Gov. Orval Faubus' efforts to keep Little Rock's schools desegregated in 1957.
“(Bennett) would have lost the election in ’58 if he had done so, but his place in history ... would be different," McDaniel said.
Andrew DeMillo has covered Arkansas government and politics for The Associated Press since 2005. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/ademillo.

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