Despite Nationwide Uproar, Discrimination Bill Becomes Arkansas Law

February 24, 2015

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday allowed a bill barring Arkansas cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to become law without his signature.

The Republican governor had said he would neither sign nor veto Senate Bill 202, which bars cities and counties from passing ordinances that prohibit discrimination on any basis not in state law. Monday marked the end of a five-day period in which Hutchinson could act before the bill became law without his signature.

SB 202 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, and Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, passed without an emergency clause and so will take effect 90 days after the session ends, likely sometime this summer.

Hutchinson was unpersuaded by calls for a veto from numerous state and national groups that see the bill as anti-gay.

The Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arkansas, the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights were among the groups that urged Hutchinson to veto the bill.

“If Governor Hutchinson allows this bill to take effect, it will amount to a giant, flashing ‘Gays Stay Away’ sign,” Rita Sklar, executive director of ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement Sunday. “It will block sincere local efforts to show that Arkansas communities are welcoming places beckoning talent, innovation and workforce diversity.”

“This bill is a triple whammy for the people of Arkansas. It promotes discrimination by making local LGBTQ non-discrimination protections illegal; stifles business by sending a message that Arkansas is not an inclusive place to visit, reside in or to do business; and seizes the power to make local laws from local Arkansas jurisdictions,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said in a statement Friday.

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