It's a light day for the legislature today, but the House will convene for a short session at 10 a.m.
The agenda includes two bills aimed at preserving the right to discriminate against gay people
in employment, housing and public accommodations.
One is Rep. Bob Ballinger's
HB 1228, the so-called conscience protection act. It prohibits governments from placing burdens on religion.
The other is Sen. Bart Hester's
SB 202, to prevent local ordinances that provide protection for distinct classes not protected by state law.
The intent of both bills is the same — continued legal discrimination against LGBT people. They are not protected by state law and Hester and Ballinger don't want them protected by state law or local law.
Hester's bill is perhaps the bigger can of worms, though the sweep of Ballinger's is breathtaking in its potential. Hester's ban on "protected classifications" call into question senior city discounts, local bidder preference, family discounts and any number of other ways in which local governments set up different treatment for different sorts of people.
It is not for Arkansas to be anywhere but in the final ranks of joining the tide of history on equality issues. 1957. 2015. Same story, new verse.
I hope the good Christians who think their religion requires denial of service and other unequal treatment of gay people are as equally upright in interacting with other types of sinners — adulterers for example.
But be of good cheer. Despite Amendment 94's ban on lobbyist freebies for the legislature, there WILL be some free eats and drinks dispensed today by the lobby at a so-called "scheduled activity" of the legislature. By deeming it such, the swill pours down on legislators in a continuing mighty stream.
BRUNCH ETC. 11 a.m., Doe's back room, ARBEV, Arkansas Cable Telecommunications Assn., Arkansas Manufactured Housing Assn., Arkansas Oil Marketers Assn., Arkansas Optometric Assn. and JWL Consulting
I've been to Doe's backroom. I don't think it can hold the 100 members of the House plus all those lobbyists. Perhaps you had to RSVP.
Remember, the Constitution requires that all meetings of the legislature be open to the public. Since these are accredited scheduled activities of the legislature, they are open to the public. Feel free to drop in. Just don't expect a lobbyist to pick up YOUR tab.