Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down City's LGBT Protections

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down City's LGBT Protections

Article excerpt

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. * The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a city's ordinance banning discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, but it stopped short of saying whether a state law aimed at prohibiting such local LGBT protections is constitutional.

The justices reversed a judge's decision that Fayetteville's anti-discrimination ordinance didn't violate a state law prohibiting cities from enacting protections not covered by state law.

Fayetteville, a liberal enclave in northwestern Arkansas, is one of several cities that approved local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in response to the 2015 state law.

Arkansas' civil rights law doesn't cover sexual orientation or gender identity. In the unanimous ruling, the justices rejected the argument from Fayetteville and other cities that such protections are covered elsewhere in state law.

The court ruled that these other laws, including an anti-bullying law, aren't related to anti-discrimination laws and don't create new protected classes. They noted that the 2015 law states its intent to have uniform anti-discrimination measures in the state.

"(Fayetteville's ordinance) violates the plain wording of Act 137 by extending discrimination laws in the city of Fayetteville to include two classifications not previously included under state law," the court said. "This necessarily creates a nonuniform nondiscrimination law and obligation in the city of Fayetteville that does not exist under state law."

The justices said they couldn't rule on the law's constitutionality since it wasn't addressed by the lower court, and they sent the case back to the Washington County judge who upheld Fayetteville's ordinance.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose office had asked the court to uphold the state law, said she was grateful for the court's ruling. …

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