Arkansas LGBT

LGBTQ Flag
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Arkansas' highest court says a city can't enforce an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, saying it's already ruled the measure violates a state law aimed at preventing local protections for LGBT people.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a Washington County judge's decision to allow Fayetteville to continue enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance while the city challenged the constitutionality of a 2015 law preventing cities and counties from enacting protections not covered by state law.

HB 1228 religious freedom gay rights
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

For many, 2017 was a time of historic support for the rights of LGBTQ people. But, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, says more can be done to improve equality in  Arkansans.

Arkansas' highest court has halted efforts to depose two lawmakers and seek documents related to the state's ban on local measures banning discrimination against LGBT people.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday granted a motion to stay discovery in a lower court case over the constitutionality of a state law prohibiting cities from enacting protections not covered by state law. Arkansas' civil rights law doesn't cover sexual orientation or gender identity. The court also said it will consider the state's appeal of the discovery issue.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A judge says he plans to order Arkansas to mediate its differences with three same-sex couples over the state's birth certificate law, which the U.S. Supreme Court found to illegally favor heterosexual parents.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox entered the initial order on Monday. On Tuesday, he set it aside because a state Supreme Court order sending the issue back to his court hasn't taken effect. Fox says he'll order mediation once that happens.

Seven months after the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Fayetteville's LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance did not comport with state law, a lower court must now decide if that law is even constitutional.

In Washington County Circuit Court before Judge Doug Martin, lawyers on both sides argued over discovery motions and the right to stay administration of Fayetteville's civil rights ordinance and enforcement commission. In place for two years, the ordinance was established explicitly to protect LGBT residents and visitors from discrimination -- because state law does not. 

Raul Fernandez / KUAR News

More than 13,000 Arkansans identify as transgender, according to a recent report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. That's a larger percentage of the population than the national average and puts Arkansas 18th in the nation.

Barriers to healthcare for these Arkansans remain a significant struggle. That’s especially true for those who want sex reassignment surgery, are on hormone therapy, or are seeking mental health services.

Several toddlers huddle under an oak tree on the Harrison town square pretending to burn something.

"P-wish," a little boy says.  "I’m going to light the fire up!”

Their parents stand a few feet away, with roughly 60 other Ku Klux Klan members holding placards as a gay pride parade goes by. The air vibrates with chants and counter-chants, some of the anti-LGBTQ shouts vulgar. The Klan protestors follow the pride procession for several blocks, converging on a local park where parade members are staging a small festival. Protestors are barred from the gated event so take up positions around the perimeter. Many are mothers pushing infants in strollers, children and teenagers, as well as single women, all members of the Christian Revival Center, operated by Pastor and Ku Klux Klan leader, Thomas Robb. 

Attorneys for the state of Arkansas want a court to cancel subpoenas issued in the battle over a gay-rights ordinance in Fayetteville, saying they're too broad.

The state Supreme Court struck down Fayetteville's anti-discrimination ordinance this year, saying it violates state law, but justices didn't rule on whether law is constitutional because that question wasn't addressed in the lower court.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans don't need special civil rights protections, according to the Arkansas legislature and governor. Act 137 of 2015 bars cities and counties from passing ordinances that "create protected classification or prohibits discrimination" on anyone not covered by the state's existing civil rights codes.

Arkansas's Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other classifications — but not sexual orientation or gender identity. And because several state anti-bullying and domestic violence statutes offer LGBTQ Arkansans protection, opponents say local codes are redundant — codes such as Fayetteville's Ordinance 5781 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

State Act 137 also ensures that “businesses, organizations and employers doing business in the state are subject to uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations.”

But Act 137 has come under judicial scrutiny.

Kendra Johnson of the Human Rights Campaign (L) and Krystopher Stephens
Daniel Breen / KUAR

Gender confirmation surgery is becoming more mainstream among surgeons, as doctors learn more about the role surgery plays in caring for transgender individuals.

It was a little over a year ago when, for the first time in its 89-year history, a conference hosted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons held a session on the topic.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Supreme Court has ruled for same-sex couples who complained an Arkansas birth certificate law discriminated against them.

The justices on Monday issued an unsigned opinion reversing an Arkansas high court ruling that upheld the law.

Under the law, married lesbian couples had to get a court order to have both spouses listed as parents on their children's birth certificates.

For the past several years, Beth Ditto was known as the dynamic frontwoman of the dance-punk band Gossip. She established herself as a singer with a helluva voice who embraced being queer, feminist and fat.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bill that would allow married gay couples in Arkansas to list both spouses' names on their children's birth certificates without a court order has failed to advance out of a Senate committee.

Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott's bill failed to advance Monday from the Senate Judiciary Committee due to a lack of a second motion. The proposed measure would have changed the presumption of parentage under the state's artificial insemination and surrogacy laws.

An Arkansas lawmaker is backing away from a broad "bathroom bill" targeting transgender people that had drawn opposition from the state's Republican governor and tourism officials, but says he'll propose another measure giving schools legal protection over their restroom policies.

Republican Sen. Greg Standridge said Thursday he's withdrawing his one-sentence bill with gender identity and bathroom privileges. A co-sponsor of the measure had said it was intended to require that someone use the public restroom consistent with the gender on their birth certificate.

Gretchen Hall Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A proposed bathroom bill filed in the Arkansas Legislature targeting transgender people is raising the concern of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

SB346 doesn’t offer any specifics at this point and is essentially a shell bill, but Republican Senator Gary Stubblefield told the Associated Press it would require people to use public bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an Arkansas ruling preventing married same-sex couples from getting the names of both spouses on their children's birth certificates without a court order.

Attorneys for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and two same-sex couples are asking justices to weigh in on a December state Supreme Court ruling. The state court reversed a judge's decision to strike down part of Arkansas' birth certificate law.

Fayetteville anti-discrimination Arkansas Supreme Court
courts.arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday concerning Fayetteville’s anti-discrimination ordinance which includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Justices questioned whether the city ordinance, passed by voters there in September 2015, conflicts with a state law passed earlier that year which bans cities and counties from enacting protections not contained in the state's civil rights law.

Leslie Rutledge attorney general
oversight.house.gov/

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is asking the state's highest court to hold oral arguments in the lawsuit challenging a city ordinance that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender orientation.

Group House To Open For Homeless LGBT in Little Rock

Jul 27, 2016
Lucie's Place

Four Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered young people in central Arkansas will have a chance to move in to a group house and receive life skills training through a donated home. Lucie’s Place, which provides services for homeless LGBT youth is launching its first residence for young adults in Little Rock this fall.

Penelope Poppers says while there’s relatively little data on homeless LGBT, especially in the south, more LGBT teens are forced out of their homes and their lives on the street are especially hard.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislature has given final approval to a rule allowing counselors to refer clients to another provider if they have religious objections to treating them. But critics say it could allow the denial of mental health services for LGBT people.

The Legislative Council's Rules and Regulations Subcommittee approved the proposal Tuesday by the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling, which regulates about 2,800 counselors and therapists in the state.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A rule that would allow Arkansas counselors to refer patients to another provider over religious objections has been sent back to a subcommittee.

The Arkansas Legislative Council voted Friday to refer the rule with little discussion. State Rep. Andy Davis, co-chair of the Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee, says the rule was not expected to be controversial, "but now that it is, we'll give them 30 more days to look at it."

The American Counseling Association says it's opposed to an effort in Arkansas to allow counselors to refer clients to another provider if they have a religious objection to treating them.

Art Terrazas, the association's director of government affairs, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the group is concerned about the rule proposed the state Board of Examiners in Counseling. The proposed rule won initial approval from lawmakers this week, and is expected to go before the Legislative Council on Friday.

Marissa Marisa Pavan Birth Certificate certificates same-sex marrriage
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas' highest court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit over whether married same-sex couples can have the names of both spouses on their children's birth certificate without a court order.

File photo. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaking to reporters after addressing the Arkansas General Assembly at the beginning of a special session.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he’s worked with fellow Republicans to keep a transgender bathroom bill off the agenda of a special session he called to address highway funding. Instead, Hutchinson plans to work with lawmakers on legislation for next year’s lengthier, regular legislative session.

During a press conference, Hutchinson said adding the item to the special session has the potential to detract from his primary objective.

Arkansas State Capitol building.
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are joining with Gov. Asa Hutchinson to encourage schools to disregard an Obama administration directive that they must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is recommending public schools disregard an Obama administration directive that they must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.

An Arkansas judge has upheld a city's ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, ruling it doesn't conflict with a state law aimed at blocking local protections for gays and lesbians.

Washington County Circuit Judge Doug Martin on Tuesday ruled the ordinance ratified by voters did not run afoul of a state law barring cities and counties from prohibiting discrimination on a basis not contained in state law. Arkansas' civil rights law doesn't include sexual orientation or gender identity.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox.
courts.arkansas.gov

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox on Monday said three same-sex couples can ask the Arkansas Department of Health to change their children’s birth certificates to reflect both spouses’ names. A suit was brought in June following the US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with the former Dean of the UALR Bowen School of Law, Professor John DiPippa, about the rights of non-biological parents.

KAUFFMAN: How does this tie into the benefits granted by the US Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage?

gay marriage
Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

A northwest Arkansas town's vote to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity could pave the way for a legal fight over a new state law that's criticized as anti-gay.