As I expected, Rep. Bob Ballinger, sponsor of several pieces of anti-gay legislation including Act 137 to limit legal protections for gays by cities and counties, isn’t impressed by Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter’s opinion on a pending city civil rights ordinance.
The ordinance would protect city employes, which Act 137 allows, but also require businesses that want city business to agree not to discriminate on sexual orientation or gender identity grounds. Ballinger and others contend Act 137 prevents extending protection to sexual minorities because they are not now covered in state law.
But, Carpenter noted, a bullying statute and a statute on domestic abuse guarantee protection on those grounds and state law also provides protection for people whose gender has changed since birth. Carpenter, too, notes an Arkansas Supreme Court decision that ended criminalization of homosexual sodomy. It says discrimination on sexual orientation is prohibited by the state’s equal rights provision.
Says Ballinger in Twitter messages to me on my question of whether Carpenter’s opinion, which I share, makes Act 137 meaningless:
He is reaching, but that is what attorneys do.
I should probably do an analysis on a better media than Twitter.
But in short, it is not meaningless. A proper interpretation would be a city could offer same protections as the state but go no further.
If a city creates new protection they would run afoul of the act. So they can prohibit bullying and collection of DNA of city employees.
I predicted resistance from this quarter last night. And resistance is good. The question needs to be answered definitively in court. Passage of the Little Rock ordinance — and survival of the broader Eureka Springs ordinance in a May 12 election — will lead to that.
I like what the Constitution says: Equality of rights under the law “shall ever remain inviolate.”
Let’s have Ballinger and Hester and Co. stand before the court and argue equal rights do not apply to gay people. That should be good for business, shouldn’t it, Gov. Hutchinson?