Here’s a welcome piece of news from the private sector.
The Downtown Little Rock Partnership has called on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to issue an executive order “protecting state employees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the work place.”
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The governor made it clear yesterday he has no intentions of doing so. But he also planned to sign a blatantly discriminatory “religious preservation” bill until corporate voices started screaming, so maybe there’s hope for a turnaround on this. Though I doubt it. Hutchinson has refused repeatedly — from the campaign on — to answer my question of whether he believes it should be legal to fire someone because they are gay. In Arkansas currently, it is.
The only conclusion — and it’s amply supported by leading Republican legislators and the quiet slaying of a civil rights bill this session — is that they believe in legal discrimiantion against LGBTQ people.
Happily, downtown businesses don’t. And no wonder. No place is safe completely for people of all sexual orientations. But Little Rock is the friendliest place in Arkansas, particularly I’d say downtown, with its influx of new younger residents and creative types who, polls show, give not a fig about sexual orientation. The push is on to make downtown a center of tech jobs and the tech industry has made clear its low opinion of those who discriminate.
Maybe Gov. Hutchinson will teach a lot of people to code and they can move to San Francisco, where they are less likely to feel the lash of legislative- and governor-endorsed discrimination.
(PS: I don’t understand how media can continue to quote Hutchinson, without elaboration or context, as saying passage of a less-bad gay discrimination bill eliminated the need for employment protection. How? It’s still legal to discriminate. Even Mike Pence of Indiana went along with non-discrimination additions to the compromise law there. Hutchinson has made it clear he won’t.)
Thanks to Gabe Holmstrom, former House chief of staff who now leads the Downtown Partnership, for a ringing declaration for equality.
“Downtown Little Rock is a place of diversity and tolerance, with a thriving and growing business community and we are against discrimination in any form,” said Gabe Holmstrom, Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership. “Discrimination is wrong, and others’ perception of a discriminatory environment is an important factor in any decision to locate a business or to visit our city and state. We urge the Governor to issue an executive order that would protect against discrimination for state employees as we want Little Rock and Arkansas to continue to be known for our great southern hospitality and as welcoming to all people.”
“Arkansas has been the recipient of significant negative attention in recent weeks, and this would be a big step in the right direction to set us on a positive course for the future,” Holmstrom added.
Downtown Little Rock Partnership is a member-based nonprofit whose mission is to assist in defining and guiding a vision for the future of Downtown Little Rock by providing, leadership, initiative and advocacy, and by building partnerships to achieve shared solutions for Downtown’s ongoing revitalization. Approximately 200 businesses, organizations and individuals are members of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.
Hutchinson speaks to the Pulaski County Bar Association today. Perhaps an intrepid lawyer can get a straight answer out of the governor on employment non-discrimination. And if he says he’s against discrimination, ask why won’t he do something about it.