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Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down city ordinance extending LGBTQ protections

[JURIST] The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] that Fayetteville city ordinance 5781 broadening nondiscrimination laws to include sexual orientation or gender identity is invalid under § 14-1-403 of the Interstate Commerce Improvement Act (Act 137) [text, PDF]. This state statute prohibited cities from adopting or enforcing "an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination" on a basis not contained in Arkansas law. Classes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are currently not protected in Arkansas. Ordinance 5781 aimed to provide just this protection. Noting that there is "a direct inconsistency between state and municipal law," the court stated the ordinance violated the plain language of Act 137 and cannot be permitted to stand. The court refused to rule on the constitutionality of Act 137 stating that this was an issue not addressed by the circuit court and therefore not preserved for appeal.

Anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity has created much controversy in the past several months. The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked [JURIST report] the Obama-era guidelines regarding transgender students. The previous guidelines were a joint effort by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education [official websites] that required federally funded schools to treat gender identity as a student's sex for purposes of Title IX [DOE materials]. In February the Washington Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that a florist that refused to sell flowers to a same-sex couple for their wedding violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Also in February the DOJ withdrew its appeal [JURIST report] of an injunction preventing the Obama administration's guidance that schools should allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choosing. In December, a bipartisan agreement to repeal North Carolina's "bathroom bill" fell apart [JURIST report] after each party accused the other of reneging on promises. House Bill 2 (HB2) [text, PDF] is a state law requiring transgender people to use the public bathroom associated with the sex listed on their birth certificate.

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