Arkansas Civil Rights

Fayetteville's City Council in an August meeting on an anti-discrimination ordinance.
Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Friday he is interested in the possibility that state-level protections for LGBT people may already exist.

Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter argued earlier this week existing language in state anti-bullying law protects LGBT individuals, making ACT 137's municipal ordinance ban irrelevant to local LGBT protections and  said ACT 137 could not be used to block ordinances protecting LGBT people.

Little Rock’s Board of Directors may be the next focal point of civil rights battles in Arkansas over protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. The introductory phase of an anti-discrimination ordinance is expected to be considered on Tuesday for placement on the board’s agenda.

The measure aims to provide legal protections for some of Little Rock’s LGBT population at the same time a state law is pending to ban local governments from enacting anti-discrimination protections.

HRC Arkansas Director Kendra Johnson and HRC President Chad Griffin speaking at the Capitol about an ad HRC is running opposed to a so-called religious liberty law proposed in 2015.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas’s Legislature stands in recess but not without drawing national attention over a “religious freedom” bill deemed by some to sanction discrimination against the state’s LGBT population.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman sat down with Kendra Johnson, the director of Human Rights Campaign Arkansas to talk about next steps for the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group.

File photo (2015). Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) speaking about the so-called religious freedom bill, HB1228, after a committee vote.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Arkansas House is poised Tuesday afternoon to vote on a nationally watched bill that proponents say advances "religious freedom" and opponents deride as sanctioning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The decision on the House floor comes in the wake of Indiana enacting a similar law. In Arkansas, as in Indiana, a number of the world's largest corporations have or are threatening to boycott the states. 

Several more announcements were made Tuesday from industry leaders.

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HRC Arkansas Director Kendra Johnson and HRC President Chad Griffin speaking at the Capitol about an ad HRC is running opposed to a so-called religious liberty law proposed in 2015.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A number of high-profile business figures are calling on Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) to veto a bill supporters describe as a "religious freedom" measure that on Friday passed the Arkansas Senate. Opponents say it allows religious belief to be used as a defense for discriminating against LGBT people in housing, employment, and both public and private accommodations and services.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent out this tweet:

An Arkansas House committee has endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to reinstate a voter identification law. The committee on Friday advanced five proposals to a joint committee that will consider which ones should be placed on the 2016 ballot.

A community forum held January 26th on possible state intervention.
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

State-control of the Little Rock School District or any district whose school board has been dissolved could look very different under a bill in the Arkansas Legislature. Still in its beginning stages, the legislation authorizes state-run districts to be administered by non-profit, private education companies.

KABF "Big Gay Radio Show" poster with Charlie Collins
facebook.com/biggayradioshow / KABF

Republican Representative Charlie Collins, who voted this month for a bill to ban cities and counties from enacting LGBT anti-discrimination laws, explained his vote for 30 minutes Friday on KABF’s “Big Gay Radio Show.” Collins told host H.L. Moody his vote was based on what he perceived as economic harms in a short-lived ordinance in Fayetteville. Collins said taking away local control was a difficult decision.

LaVerne Bell-Tolliver
www.hisdreamourstories.com

While the history of the integration of the Little Rock School District is largely overshadowed by the 1957 crisis at Central High School, 25 young African-Americans also faced daunting challenges in following years when they desegregated the city’s junior high schools.

On Saturday, many will be sharing their stories, some for the first time publicly, as part of the celebration of African American history month.

Rep. Nate Bell in a committee hearing during the 2015 regular session of the Arkansas Legislature.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

A second attempt in the Arkansas Legislature to decouple the joint state holiday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. failed in the House State Agencies Committee Wednesday after a tense hearing.

“The people who support this bill have been somewhat silent. There is a lot of intimidation up there," said the bill's sponsor Representative Nate Bell.

Eureka Springs Passes Anti-Discrimination Ordinance As Legislature Considers Ban

Feb 10, 2015
bart hester
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

   

A bill that would prohibit cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances not reflected in state law is now headed to the Arkansas House. It was passed Monday in the Senate by a vote of 24-8.

The bill’s introduction by Republican Sen. Bart Hester followed the passage, then repeal of a local ordinance in Fayetteville that included protections for people based on gender identification and sexual orientation.

The Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus is backing a lawmaker's repeat attempt to stop the state from recognizing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day.

A House panel rejected the plan last week.

Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena met with the 15-member caucus on Monday. He said afterward he will run his bill again, but doesn't know when he will do so.

Arkansas is one of three states that celebrates Lee and King on the same day. Bell's bill would remove Lee from the state holiday on the third Monday of January.

For Smith National Historic Site
nps.gov / National Park Service

Arkansas’s second largest city, Fort Smith, will embark on 12-year, $255 million upgrade to its sewer and water treatment operations as part of a settlement regarding a decade of Clean Water Act violations. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman talked to the Environmental Protection Agency’s chief of the Municipal Enforcement Branch Loren Denton about where untreated waste ended up and the prospects of cleaner water.

Republican Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge at KUAR during the 2014 May Primary run-off.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Outgoing Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced on Tuesday his intent to appeal a federal judge in Little Rock's decision striking down Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage. McDaniel said he had hoped the state Supreme Court would have ruled, suggesting it may have affected his decision to appeal, before Friday's deadline for a federal appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri.

KUAR's Jacob Kauffman spoke with the state's next attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, who will take McDaniel's position and the cases on same-sex marriage in mid-January.

Arkansas' attorney general says he will appeal a federal judge's ruling that found voters were wrong to ban gay marriage during a referendum 10 years ago. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Tuesday he would file a notice of appeal with the 8th U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled last month that a voter-approved gay-marriage ban and a separate state law are unconstitutional.A decision in a similar case before the Arkansas Supreme Court is pending.

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