Today, blinded by the euphoria of the falling of state marriage dominoes thanks to federal court decisions, including from the Eighth Circuit, which covers Arkansas, the community is distracted from the stepchildren of the Arizona bill. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback undid state protections for its LGBT employees, Michigan tried its own “license to discriminate” bill in December, and now it’s Arkansas’ turn. This bill is worse in that it nullifies local LGBT protections. It was passed by the State House this past Friday, 57 to 20, after having easily exited the State Senate Feb. 9, by 24 to 8. Newly elected Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in a show of remarkable political cowardice, has stated that he will neither sign nor veto the bill, allowing it to become law in 90 days:
I recognize the desire to prevent burdensome regulations on businesses across the state. However, I am concerned about the loss of local control. For that reason, I am allowing the bill to become law without my signature.
The statement was subtitled “To Amend the Law Concerning Ordinances of 17 Cities and Counties by Creating the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act and to Declare an Emergency.” The “emergency” was the need to block any state or county ordinances from protecting the LGBT community. The proximate cause was passage of an LGBT anti-discrimination bill in Fayetteville last summer, a bill that was narrowly overturned in a referendum this past December. While some are rationalizing their support by claiming the importance of uniformity of the law across the state in order to attract business, and focusing on “murder” and “fraud,” the Senate sponsor had no hesitation in saying that religious business owners should be allowed to fire gay employees.