The Stonewall Democrats
have issued a statement in opposition to Sen. Bart Hester's
proposed bill to prevent local governments from passing legislation that extends anti-discrimination protection to gay people.
A statement issued by Tippi McCullough, President, Stonewall Democratic Caucus
In regard to Senate Bill 202 titled The Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act sponsored by state Senator Bart Hester (R), the Arkansas Stonewall Democratic Caucus condemns this thinly veiled attempt to create a blatant act of discrimination against LGBTQ citizens and their families. This is a targeted effort to strip a minority group of their equal rights and municipalities of their local control over their communities. We hope the public will let their legislators know that they do not support a bill that promotes inequality under the false premise of "commerce improvement."
PS — Hester repeated yesterday a seemingly persuasive argument that was employed equally fallaciously in the fight to overturn the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance.
It is that the ordinance allowed for sanctions against those who acted on the "perception" that someone was discriminated against on account of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, disability or sexual orientation.
This is a standard provision in existing civil rights legislation at all levels. It is not unfair.
If an innkeeper refuses a room to a dark-skinned person for the "perception" that they are an African-American (though the person is not) they have discriminated on the basis of race just as surely as if the person was an African-American. To discriminate against someone you think is gay is just as discriminatory as discriminating against a gay person. (How, by the way, do you decide if someone is gay when you choose to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodation?)
Again: It would be nice if Gov. Asa Hutchinson would express a moderating view that, for example, this legislation is unneeded, if he couldn't come out and say he opposed it. You'd hope that a solid number of legislators would stand up against legalization of discrimination — which is precisely what this legislation does — but such common sense and/or courage seems in short supply at the Arkansas legislature. Breathes there an open-minded Republican? Breathes there a Democrat who understands the go-along-to-get along posture they've adopted this session will produce NO political benefits for them? That there are times when principle should prevail?
UPDATE: The Stonewall Democrats added a statement about another bill, similar in intent to protect those who discriminate against gay people.
Two discriminatory bills on February 2, 2015 were filed that directly target the Arkansas LGBTQ community. The latest is House Bill 1228 titled The Conscience Protection Act. It is a travesty to watch legislators hide behind religious freedom in order to promote hatred and fear.
This bill is a return to a shameful time in Arkansas history when segregation was justified by the false shield of religious freedom. We encourage the good citizens of Arkansas to contact their legislators and protest this bill so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past but keep Arkansas moving forward.