Leadership of the Arkansas Democratic Party today announced its opposition to Sen. Bart Hester’s bill to preserve legal discrimination against gay people. It was passed shortly after by the Senate, with three Democrats in support.
Hester’s bill would prohibit local governments from extending civil rights protection to any class not covered in state law. It is a response to the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance extending protection in employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT people.
Said the Party:
Today, officers of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, including Chair Vincent Insalaco, 1st Vice Chair Joyce Elliott, 2nd Vice Chair Janet Johnson-Henderson, and Treasurer Tyler B. Clark released the following joint statement in opposition to Senate Bill 202 in the Arkansas State Legislature:
“This bill strips local control from our communities. Arkansas is home to some of the world’s most notable Fortune 500 companies, like Wal-Mart, who have adopted good business policies that prohibit discrimination in the workplace, and yet, some Republican legislators would prefer to move our state backwards with this overreaching bill.”
A vote is expected this afternoon.
UPDATE: The bill passed 24-8. Three Democrats voted for it — Bruce Maloch, Bobby Pierce and Larry Teague. Two Republicans, Alan Clark and Jake Files, didn’t vote.
ALSO: The U.S. Supreme Court declared years ago that it was unconstitutional for Colorado to prohibit laws protecting homosexuals, which Hester’s bill effectively, but not explicitly, does. It would take a real lawyer to figure if there’s a challenge here. I think, however, that a city could pass an ordinance protecting gay people. Somebody could challenge it in court on the strength of Hester’s law (if it passes, which surely it will given prevailing Republican majorities) and then a court could cite the U.S. Supreme Court precedent. They’d best do it in federal court, though. They might not ever get a ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court.
FURTHERMORE: The bill prohibits creating “protected classes.” Does a city that provides family memberships or special rates for seniors create a protected class? To name just a few potential areas that special classes are enacted. Couldn’t someone sue over such illegal exactions (when some are charged more than others for city services — at the gym, Zoo or wherever?).