“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 case holding that the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry, Congress and state legislatures have proposed and enacted laws to protect people who disagree with this ruling. These laws take several forms, but they all foster inequities that are concerning for public health,” said Jennifer L. Pomeranz, assistant professor of public health policy and management at NYU College of Global Public Health and the article’s author.
One such law, Arkansas’ Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act of 2015, or Act 137, prohibits local governments from enacting civil rights protections for LGBTQ individuals that are also lacking at the state level.
Act 137 declares that its purpose is to improve intrastate commerce by requiring state uniformity for civil rights laws. However, it withdraws the authority of local governments to provide increased protections to groups of people not mentioned in the state’s civil rights act, which in Arkansas includes race, religion, national origin, gender, and disability – but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, it is not an evidence-based method to improve commerce.
“It appears that the purpose of Act 137 is to ensure that local governments cannot enact civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in Arkansas. Such state laws undermine local control, damage the economy, and create injustices that harm LGBTQ people,” said Pomeranz.