Arkansas LGBT

HB 1228 religious freedom gay rights
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

For many, 2017 was a time of historic support for the rights of LGBTQ people. But, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, says more can be done to improve equality in  Arkansans.

Arkansas' highest court has halted efforts to depose two lawmakers and seek documents related to the state's ban on local measures banning discrimination against LGBT people.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday granted a motion to stay discovery in a lower court case over the constitutionality of a state law prohibiting cities from enacting protections not covered by state law. Arkansas' civil rights law doesn't cover sexual orientation or gender identity. The court also said it will consider the state's appeal of the discovery issue.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A judge says he plans to order Arkansas to mediate its differences with three same-sex couples over the state's birth certificate law, which the U.S. Supreme Court found to illegally favor heterosexual parents.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox entered the initial order on Monday. On Tuesday, he set it aside because a state Supreme Court order sending the issue back to his court hasn't taken effect. Fox says he'll order mediation once that happens.

Seven months after the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Fayetteville's LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance did not comport with state law, a lower court must now decide if that law is even constitutional.

In Washington County Circuit Court before Judge Doug Martin, lawyers on both sides argued over discovery motions and the right to stay administration of Fayetteville's civil rights ordinance and enforcement commission. In place for two years, the ordinance was established explicitly to protect LGBT residents and visitors from discrimination -- because state law does not. 

Raul Fernandez / KUAR News

More than 13,000 Arkansans identify as transgender, according to a recent report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. That's a larger percentage of the population than the national average and puts Arkansas 18th in the nation.

Barriers to healthcare for these Arkansans remain a significant struggle. That’s especially true for those who want sex reassignment surgery, are on hormone therapy, or are seeking mental health services.

Several toddlers huddle under an oak tree on the Harrison town square pretending to burn something.

"P-wish," a little boy says.  "I’m going to light the fire up!”

Their parents stand a few feet away, with roughly 60 other Ku Klux Klan members holding placards as a gay pride parade goes by. The air vibrates with chants and counter-chants, some of the anti-LGBTQ shouts vulgar. The Klan protestors follow the pride procession for several blocks, converging on a local park where parade members are staging a small festival. Protestors are barred from the gated event so take up positions around the perimeter. Many are mothers pushing infants in strollers, children and teenagers, as well as single women, all members of the Christian Revival Center, operated by Pastor and Ku Klux Klan leader, Thomas Robb. 

Attorneys for the state of Arkansas want a court to cancel subpoenas issued in the battle over a gay-rights ordinance in Fayetteville, saying they're too broad.

The state Supreme Court struck down Fayetteville's anti-discrimination ordinance this year, saying it violates state law, but justices didn't rule on whether law is constitutional because that question wasn't addressed in the lower court.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans don't need special civil rights protections, according to the Arkansas legislature and governor. Act 137 of 2015 bars cities and counties from passing ordinances that "create protected classification or prohibits discrimination" on anyone not covered by the state's existing civil rights codes.

Arkansas's Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other classifications — but not sexual orientation or gender identity. And because several state anti-bullying and domestic violence statutes offer LGBTQ Arkansans protection, opponents say local codes are redundant — codes such as Fayetteville's Ordinance 5781 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

State Act 137 also ensures that “businesses, organizations and employers doing business in the state are subject to uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations.”

But Act 137 has come under judicial scrutiny.

Kendra Johnson of the Human Rights Campaign (L) and Krystopher Stephens
Daniel Breen / KUAR

Gender confirmation surgery is becoming more mainstream among surgeons, as doctors learn more about the role surgery plays in caring for transgender individuals.

It was a little over a year ago when, for the first time in its 89-year history, a conference hosted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons held a session on the topic.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Supreme Court has ruled for same-sex couples who complained an Arkansas birth certificate law discriminated against them.

The justices on Monday issued an unsigned opinion reversing an Arkansas high court ruling that upheld the law.

Under the law, married lesbian couples had to get a court order to have both spouses listed as parents on their children's birth certificates.