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Arkansas passes bill blocking anti-gay discrimination laws

Arkansas passes bill blocking anti-gay discrimination laws

Arkansas is one step closer to prohibiting towns and cities from passing laws blocking discrimination against LGBTI residents.

On Friday, 13 February, the state House passed the bill, in a 58-21 vote.

The legislation, officially called Senate Bill 202, made it through the state Senate on 9 February.

According to the Arkansas Times, the proposal keeps local governments from extending  civil rights protection to groups not listed in state statutes.

The Times Record explains bills in the southern US state become laws five days after reaching the governor if the state executive does not sign, or veto, the  legislation.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on 13 February he would permit the measure to become law, minus his signature.

‘Senate Bill 202 passed with significant margins in the General Assembly, and I have a high regard for the discussion in the Legislature and respect for the legislative process,’ the governor said, according to the Times Record.

When the proposal was first introduced Kendra R. Johnson, state director of the Human Rights Campaign Arkansas, called it ‘an attack on liberty and democracy.’

‘Local leaders in Arkansas should be allowed to choose what’s right for their own city or town,’ she continued.

‘It’s crystal clear that the motivation for this bill is to stifle local efforts to advance equality for LGBT Arkansans. Not only is it wrong, this explicit attempt at legislative overreach is discriminatory, dangerous, and fundamentally un-American.’

Last August the Fayetteville City Council approved a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender orientation.

The law was repealed by city voters in 2014 December.

Last week the state House also passed Bill 1228, called the Conscience Protection Act.

That proposal, if made law, would, as reported by the Times Record, ‘bar the state from burdening a person’s exercise of religion.’

The bill was approved by a 70-20 vote.

Representative Bob Ballinger told the Times Record, after the vote, the law applies to a baker refusing service to a LGBTI customer.