Published: Sat, February 25, 2017
Markets | By Armando Jensen

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down City's LGBT Policy

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down City's LGBT Policy

Arkansas' Act 137 (PDF), titled the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, states that its objective is "ensuring that businesses, organization, and employers doing business in the state are subject to uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations".

Lawyers defending the city had unsuccessfully argued that because discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation are addressed in a state antibullying statute, the Fayetteville ordinance was legal.

"Clearly, the classifications of gender identity and sexual orientation were classifications of persons protected on bases contained in state law prior to the enactment of Ordinance 5781", Martin wrote.

The ACLU filed a brief in support of the Fayetteville ordinance.

The Arkansas Civil Rights Act already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender and disability - but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a Fayetteville's LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance on the grounds it violates a 2015 state law prohibiting cities from adding categories not included in state protections. Fayetteville and several other cities then passed ordinances in response to state law.

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In the 10-page unanimous decision, Associate Justice Josephine Linker Hart determined the pro-LGBT ordinance enacted by Fayetteville "creates a nonuniform nondiscrimination law and obligation in the City of Fayetteville that does not exist under state law".

Fayetteville's city attorney will return to court, challenging the constitutionality of the state law, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

The city's anti-discrimination law "violates the plain wording of [the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act] by extending discrimination laws in the city of Fayetteville to include two classifications not previously included under state law", the court said in its opinion.

Arkansas is one of multiple states where local governments are at odds with state legislatures over discrimination protections. "And I also believe that Act 137 was unconstitutional, under equal protection grounds", Weatherby said.

Williams said when anyone in the community is discriminated against it's important to fight back to protect the rights of those here in Arkansas. "They can't, by not using express terms, accomplish the same result which is truly what their intent was, which was to prevent the city from enacting protections for its gay and lesbian residents", Williams said in an interview with CBS.

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