Hot Springs City Director Becca Clark reports that the city Board will vote next week on an ordinance to add non-discrimination protection to city law for LGBT people.
Mayor Ruth Carney, whose base support includes Hot Springs’ politically active right-wing evangelical community, has expressed resistance but she is a single vote and often on the losing end of board propositions.
Clark says the Hot Springs ordinance is much like an ordinance recently adopted in Little Rock, though it sounds a bit broader. She told the Sentinel-Record about its provisions:
“One says the city of Hot Springs will not discriminate against their employees in our hiring practices. Second, it says Hot Springs city employees will not discriminate against any of their customers or users, and the third part says that any contract awarded to companies or individuals wishing to do business with the city will be subject to the city ordinance.”
Little Rock’s ordinance doesn’t contain the second part Clark describes.
Clark says the ordinance is a response to the state legislature’s effort to prohibit cities and counties from expanding protection beyond what is in state law. City Attorney Tom Carpenter in Little Rock has since noted that some laws in Arkansas, though not the broad civil rights statute, DO provide protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That opinion, if upheld, could essentially neuter the state law. Carpenter also said the statute likely would fall on constitutional grounds for its violation of equal protection.
Said Clark to the Sentinel-Record:
“I personally feel like it’s the right thing to do. The state of Arkansas came off looking really bad, in my opinion. The Legislature says that cities and counties could not even not discriminate; they were being forced to allow discrimination, which I found shocking.”
The state law doesn’t take effect until July. Eureka Springs and Little Rock have adopted ordinances and they are being considered elsewhere, including by the Pulaski County Quorum Court.