Arkansas lawmaker proposes ban on local LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws

Bart Hester

Bart Hester

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas lawmaker on Monday proposed barring local governments from making it illegal to fire someone or evict them based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, a move that gay rights supporters said would set a dangerous precedent.

Bart Hester

Bart Hester

Republican Sen. Bart Hester of Cave Springs filed a bill that would bar cities and counties from adopting ordinances or resolutions that would create a protected classification or prohibit discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.

State law doesn’t currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The proposal comes nearly two months after Fayetteville voters repealed a city ordinance that made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in the areas of housing, work and public accommodation.

Hester said his proposal was a response to that ordinance, saying he believed local governments having varying discrimination laws could deter businesses from moving to the state.

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“It’s very difficult to recruit someone here when we’re going to have different civil rights ordinances in different cities,” Hester said. “We need some uniformity.”

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, denounced Hester’s proposal and said it would take away cities’ ability to govern themselves.

“Local leaders in Arkansas should be allowed to choose what’s right for their own city or town,” Kendra Johnson, the group’s Arkansas director, said in a statement.

“It’s crystal clear that the motivation for this bill is to stifle local efforts to advance equality for LGBT Arkansans,” said Johnson.

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