[JURIST] The Arkansas legislature [official website] on Friday passed a bill [SB 202] that would prohibit local governments from enacting laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals from discrimination. The proposed purpose of the bill is to improve intrastate commerce by ensuring that businesses in the state operate under uniform nondiscrimination obligations relating to employment. The Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] believes [press release] the bill was introduced as a direct “fear response” to Fayetteville’s local law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, Fayetteville’s law has been repealed by referendum. State Representative Clarke Tucker referred [IBT report] to the bill as a “proactive act of discrimination” and believes the act will communicate that Arkansas is “out of step with the corporate culture in 2015.” Newly-elected Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson [official profile] is not expected to veto the legislation.
LGBT rights remain controversial throughout the US. Earlier this week the governor of Kansas rescinded [JURIST report] an executive order protecting LGBT state employees from the discrimination, and the Oklahoma House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [Reuters report] that would protect clergy members from involvement in lawsuits for their refusal to conduct same-sex marriages. Earlier this month the Florida House of Representatives [official website] introduced a bill that could prohibit [Huffington Post article] transgender people from choosing a bathroom, instead confining them to use the bathroom designated to the sex a person was at birth.