ASA!: The governor doesn't object to LGBT discrimination; but he's not anxious to add more legal discrimination to the statute books. The legislature likely will see it differently. BRIAN CHILSON

John Brummett’s column today in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette adds a new dimension to past reporting here on Arkansas’s legal discrimination against LGBT people.

The legislature and governor approved — specifically or tacitly —- and the attorney general is defending two distinct pieces of discriminatory legislation: One provides a religious pretext for legal discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation; the other prevents local governments from passing civil rights protections of their own.

We are, in short, all too similar to North Carolina, which has suffered tremendously from its anti-LGBT legislation. People just don’t pay much attention to Arkansas. That should change soon. For one thing, California has a new law that prevents state official paid travel to states, like Arkansas, that discriminate. 

For another, until now Arkansas HAS lacked an explicit piece of legislation preventing transgender people from using public facilities that match their gender. But I’ve said for months that the 2017 legislature is likely to take care of that at the outset of its work, even before cutting taxes and putting more punitive measures on poor people.


Brummett notes this likelihood and quotes Rep. Bob Ballinger’s enthusiastic endorsement. But there is this news: Gov. Asa Hutchinson is opposed to legislation. Not to worry, haters. The Computer Coding King is no friend of LGBT people. He merely understands it is bad for business, particularly in the tech world, to officially declare a state’s belief in legal discrimination. Writes Brummett of an expression from Hutchinson:

“I have met with Rep. Ballinger and others that are concerned about this issue, and I’ll continue to work with them to evaluate what is needed in our state,” Hutchinson said in a written statement. “However, with the current court cases pending that will likely strike down any guidance from the Obama Administration and with the fact that there is already local flexibility in place to handle these sensitive issues, I do not see any need for any legislation in Arkansas at this time.”

In other words, he’ll do everything he can to insure full rights are denied LGBT people, as they already are, but he wants it done de facto (bullying, shaming and oppression are very useful tools) not de jure.


The bill seems likely to pass. If it does, will the governor then repeat his ignoble past on an LGBT issue by saying, in effect: “Hell, they’ll just override my veto. So why bother? I’ll let it become law without my signature.”

A failure to speak up would be an eloquent expression (see Bonhoeffer, D.)

Apple, the NFL, the NCAA and others will be sophisticated enough to interpret what it would mean about the quality and courage of leadership in Arkansas/West Carolina.

His own poor witness on the LGBT issue notwithstanding, it WOULD be a small victory if Hutchinson’s opposition did defeat a bathroom bill. But we’d still be left with two statutory expressions of discrimination that he DID allow to become law.