Remember when they said booming Atlanta was too busy to hate? Arkansas is too busy hating.
For years now, the Arkansas legislature has devoted inordinate time to discriminating against sexual minorities. Lately, the particular focus has been the few hundred transgender children in the state, a minority often in hiding from fear of family or societal disapproval.
A particularly mean new arrival prompts this (not comprehensive) roundup of the legislature’s not-so-magnificent obsession. Wait for the capper:
Law is still on the Arkansas statute books, though invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court, to prohibit same-sex marriage. The same for the anti-sodomy law. As with the 1950s seg laws that hung around for decades, hope springs eternal for a reversion to the old ways. (The Arkansas Constitution still permits slavery as punishment for a crime and a proposal by a Black Democrat to remove this provision isn’t likely to make the ballot when amendments are decided. The business lobby must be served first.)
Existing law prohibits local civil rights ordinances. This was passed to prevent cities from protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public services.
Existing law allows people to use religion as a pretext to discriminate against LGBT people in employment, housing and public services.
A proposal from the governor to remove Arkansas from the list of four states without hate crime laws is stymied because opponents don’t want to add penalties to people who commit crimes inspired by hatred rooted in sexual orientation or gender identity.
A pending proposal requires advance notice to parents and curriculum review of any school course material that mentions sexual orientation or gender identity. (As if many school districts would dare.)
A pending proposal allows any medical provider or insurance company to refuse service if they have moral objections to LGBT people.
A pending proposal prohibits transgender girls from participating in girls’ athletics, kindergarten through college.
A pending proposal prohibits transgender students, boys and girls, from participating in athletics other than in sports designated for the gender on their birth certificate.
A pending proposal prohibits medical services — including desperately needed counseling — for transgender minors. The father of a transgender child was arrested for speaking past his two-minute limit in a committee hearing on this bill.
That should give you an idea of the mindset of the legislature. But a new bill, HB 1749, from Rep. Mary Bentley, with Sen. Gary Stubblefield as Senate sponsor, takes the devotion to this cause to a new level of cruelty. It says:
A public school employee shall address a public school student by only the name and sex designated on the public school student’s certificate of birth.
A public school employee may address a public school student by a name or sex not stated on the public school student’s certificate of birth only if the public school student has amended his or her name or sex on his or her certificate of birth according to the procedural requirements provided under § 20-18-307.
However, a public school employee may address a public school student by the public school student’s nickname or any other word the public school student uses to identify the public school student.
Asking: Could a transgender girl born as Gary who called herself Mary be addressed that way by a teacher?
The reaction was swift on the progressive end of social media last night. Some examples:
— Woo Pig (@laundrybasket22) March 16, 2021
There is no group of people too marginalized, too bullied, too forgotten that the #arleg won’t punch down on and demagogue. This is the worst, most damaging, and most hateful session in my lifetime. Today was only another sad #arpx chapter in the race to the bottom. pic.twitter.com/kqqSHUp9Y9
— Jesse Gibson (@JesseJGibson) March 16, 2021
My teenager uses a name not on his birth certificate at school. It’s not a nickname. It’s just the name he prefers. Why anyone would have a problem with that is absolutely beyond me.
Arkansas has hungry kids. Teen pregnancy thru the roof. Real problems. What are we even doing?
— Misty Ann eyeballing the legislature (@MistyTrails) March 17, 2021
Well that’s just silly.
It’s unenforceable and the only effect is to give these hateful trolls a talking point for their more hateful constituents. It also keeps businesses from moving to Arkansas. It’s things like this that really kill Arkansas jobs.
— Oliver Wendell Homeboy (@homeboy_olive) March 17, 2021
Yes, let’s talk about the Holy Grail of the Arkansas legislature: Economic development.
What decent corporate executive would enthusiastically put hundreds of employees in a state governed with such palpable cruelty of purpose? We need to look no farther than 1957 for what a reputation for discrimination can do to a state.
Code on, governor. Wave this stuff into the statute books, too afraid to even symbolically show there are better angels in Arkansas by a veto.
And speaking of parents of transgender children: Watch this:
MUST WATCH: Brandon Boulware, the father of a transgender daughter, testifies during a hearing asking Missouri lawmakers to stop discriminating against trans youth. pic.twitter.com/bTuSoyE1nW
— ACLU (@ACLU) March 15, 2021