Arkansas Civil Rights

Jonesboro LGBT Protection Attempt Fails To Gain Support

May 6, 2015

Hot Springs just became the latest in a string of Arkansas cities to add sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected classes in city employment and contracts. However, a similar in ordinance in Jonesboro is unable to gain traction or even enough support for a vote to be held. KASU’s Jonathan Reaves reports.

Looking Down on Central Avenue in Hot Springs
wikipedia.org

Hot Springs is the latest Arkansas city at the forefront of a battle to provide legal protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The proposed ordinance, mirroring Little Rock’s recently passed measure applying to city employees and vendors, is being taken up Tuesday night.

City Director Becca Clark is leading the effort in the wake of a not-yet-in-effect state law banning local civil rights protections.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

The healthcare experience of transgender people in Arkansas is the subject of what some laud as an unprecedented study being launched by the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition (ArTEC) in partnership with the UAMS College of Public Health. The community engagement based research project, funded by a $15,000 federal grant, was announced by ArTEC Tuesday.

The organization’s executive director Andrea Zekis said the award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute is a new direction at both the federal and state level.

LGBTQ Flag
wikipedia.org

Authors of a measure to repeal a ban against local civil rights ordinances for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people are gathering signatures. 51,000 signatures must be gathered within 90 days for the question to be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

Attorney David Couch with Arkansans to Protect Local Rights, said ACT 137 is hateful towards LGBT people. He said he believes there is enough support to get signatures for the ballot and overturn the law.

Fayetteville's City Council in an August meeting on an anti-discrimination ordinance.
Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Friday he is interested in the possibility that state-level protections for LGBT people may already exist.

Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter argued earlier this week existing language in state anti-bullying law protects LGBT individuals, making ACT 137's municipal ordinance ban irrelevant to local LGBT protections and  said ACT 137 could not be used to block ordinances protecting LGBT people.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

One hundred and fifty years ago this week Arkansas ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Just after the conclusion of an afternoon seminar in Sturgis Hall of the Clinton School of Public Service on Tuesday, Dean Skip Rutherford asked folks to stick around and reflect on the Amendment.

“That Amendment abolished slavery and as a result over 400,000 slaves in Arkansas were freed,” he said.

Little Rock’s Board of Directors may be the next focal point of civil rights battles in Arkansas over protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. The introductory phase of an anti-discrimination ordinance is expected to be considered on Tuesday for placement on the board’s agenda.

The measure aims to provide legal protections for some of Little Rock’s LGBT population at the same time a state law is pending to ban local governments from enacting anti-discrimination protections.

A group representing downtown Little Rock's businesses is calling on Arkansas' governor to issue an order extending workplace anti-discrimination protections to gay and lesbian state employees.

 

The Downtown Little Rock Partnership's board of directors on Friday called on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to issue an order protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Hutchinson, a Republican, had floated the idea last week as he called for changes to a religious objections measure.

 

HRC Arkansas Director Kendra Johnson, HRC President Chad Griffin speaking at the Capitol next to an ad the organization is running.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas’s Legislature stands in recess but not without drawing national attention over a “religious freedom” bill deemed by some to sanction discrimination against the state’s LGBT population.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman sat down with Kendra Johnson, the director of Human Rights Campaign Arkansas to talk about next steps for the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group.

HB 1228 bill sponsor, Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) after the committee vote.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Arkansas House is poised Tuesday afternoon to vote on a nationally watched bill that proponents say advances "religious freedom" and opponents deride as sanctioning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The decision on the House floor comes in the wake of Indiana enacting a similar law. In Arkansas, as in Indiana, a number of the world's largest corporations have or are threatening to boycott the states. 

Several more announcements were made Tuesday from industry leaders.

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