Arkansas Civil Rights

Nate Bell
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

A second attempt in the Arkansas Legislature to decouple the joint state holiday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. failed in the House State Agencies Committee Wednesday after a tense hearing.

“The people who support this bill have been somewhat silent. There is a lot of intimidation up there," said the bill's sponsor Representative Nate Bell.

Eureka Springs Passes Anti-Discrimination Ordinance As Legislature Considers Ban

Feb 10, 2015
bart hester
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

   

A bill that would prohibit cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances not reflected in state law is now headed to the Arkansas House. It was passed Monday in the Senate by a vote of 24-8.

The bill’s introduction by Republican Sen. Bart Hester followed the passage, then repeal of a local ordinance in Fayetteville that included protections for people based on gender identification and sexual orientation.

The Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus is backing a lawmaker's repeat attempt to stop the state from recognizing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day.

A House panel rejected the plan last week.

Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena met with the 15-member caucus on Monday. He said afterward he will run his bill again, but doesn't know when he will do so.

Arkansas is one of three states that celebrates Lee and King on the same day. Bell's bill would remove Lee from the state holiday on the third Monday of January.

For Smith National Historic Site
nps.gov / National Park Service

Arkansas’s second largest city, Fort Smith, will embark on 12-year, $255 million upgrade to its sewer and water treatment operations as part of a settlement regarding a decade of Clean Water Act violations. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman talked to the Environmental Protection Agency’s chief of the Municipal Enforcement Branch Loren Denton about where untreated waste ended up and the prospects of cleaner water.

Republican Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge at KUAR during the 2014 May Primary run-off.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Outgoing Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced on Tuesday his intent to appeal a federal judge in Little Rock's decision striking down Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage. McDaniel said he had hoped the state Supreme Court would have ruled, suggesting it may have affected his decision to appeal, before Friday's deadline for a federal appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri.

KUAR's Jacob Kauffman spoke with the state's next attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, who will take McDaniel's position and the cases on same-sex marriage in mid-January.

Arkansas' attorney general says he will appeal a federal judge's ruling that found voters were wrong to ban gay marriage during a referendum 10 years ago. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Tuesday he would file a notice of appeal with the 8th U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled last month that a voter-approved gay-marriage ban and a separate state law are unconstitutional.A decision in a similar case before the Arkansas Supreme Court is pending.

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

An alderman in Fayetteville is ready to try again to put an anti-discrimination ordinance in place but a state senator in northwest Arkansas hopes to strip Fayetteville, and local governments statewide, from having the authority to pass such ordinances. 

Earlier this month voters in Fayetteville narrowly chose to repeal an anti-discrimination ordinance designed to provide protection and recourse in housing, employment, and public accommodations to historically discriminated against populations - including LGBT people.   

Arkansas Capitol
Ron Breeding / KUAR News

Recent decisions by federal grand juries to not indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and New York have stirred protesters around the country.

In Little Rock, a small group of organizers is planning a “silent protest” this weekend. They hope to call attention to and help mend tensions between black communities and the local police.

KUAR's Chris Hickey caught up with Jessica Lawson, who, along with Mondale Robinson, is organizing the event.

 

A federal appeals court in St. Louis is scheduled to hear oral arguments as part of a wrongful death lawsuit by the family of a 67-year-old Arkansas man killed by an off-duty Little Rock police officer.

The female officer and a colleague who also was working private security when Eugene Ellison was shot to death in December 2010 want the appeals court to overturn a lower court ruling denying their immunity claims in the suit by Ellison's family.

State Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Voters in Fayetteville next week will decide the fate of an anti-discrimination ordinance designed in large part to protect the city’s LGBT population. Fayetteville’s city council approved the measure – the first of its kind in Arkansas - in August and a petition process for its repeal began immediately after. Signature gathering was successful and the ordinance is up for a repeal vote December 9.

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