Leading US civil rights organizations are asking Arkansas’ governor to veto a bill blocking towns and cities from passing laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI residents.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arkansas, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, and National Center for Lesbian Rights issued the statement yesterday (21 February).
Senate Bill 202 passed the Arkansas state House on 13 February. Governor Asa Hutchinson has until tomorrow, February 23, to veto or sign the measure. If he does nothing, the legislation becomes law.
‘…This bill will preempt local nondiscrimination laws and policies that offer protections on any basis not yet included in state law,’ the organizations said in a release. ‘The purpose of the law is to prevent any legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and everyone knows this.’
The groups added ‘if Governor Hutchinson allows this bill to take effect, it will amount to a giant, flashing “Gays Stay Away” sign. It will block sincere local efforts to show that Arkansas communities are welcoming places beckoning talent, innovation and workforce diversity.’
The organizations also point to the proposal’s official name, insisting it’s disingenuous.
‘SB 202 is misleadingly called the “Intrastate 30 Commerce Improvement Act,"’ the statement reads. ‘But make no mistake – this bill is not about alleviating drags on commerce within Arkansas, and no one truly thinks it is.’
After being approved by the House, state Representative Bob Ballinger admitted the law applies to a baker refusing service to a LGBTI customer.
The governor of the southern state said he would let proposal become law.
‘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,’ Hutchinson said on 13 February.
The measure made it through the House by a 58-21 vote; the Senate 24-8.