LITTLE ROCK (Christian Examiner) – The Arkansas state Senate Feb. 9 passed a bill 24-8 that would bar local governments from passing ordinances protecting sexual identity rights not contained in state law.
Arkansas laws do not grant protections based on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual status.
In December, 29 percent of Fayetteville's registered voters, a record number for a special election, turned out to defeat a city ordinance, 52 percent to 48 percent. The vote repealed a law containing provisions that allowed transsexuals, individuals with a confused gender identity, the right to use any public facility—restroom, shower, or changing facility---regardless of their biological gender and actual anatomy.
The proposed bill is a reaction to the Fayetteville incident and would eliminate any more confusion from local governments moving ahead of state lawmakers.
If the measure is approved, Arkansas would join Tennessee in putting such restrictions in place.
Tennessee lawmakers approved their measure in 2011, after Nashville passed an ordinance barring companies from doing business with the city that did not did not have include sexual identity rights in corporate governing policies.
Nashville is home to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and Christian retailer LifeWay Christian Resources, also a Southern Baptist entity. The United Methodist Church does not have a headquarters per se, but it has several large administrative offices in the Music City. The National Baptist Convention, USA, has its Baptist World Center Headquarters downtown as well.
The Arkansas measure was proposed by state Senator Bart Hester, who told the Associated Press his intention was to have consistency in such laws across the state.
"What we need to do in the state of Arkansas is create a uniform and standardized process for any business to come in," he said.