On Friday, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 57-20 in favor of a bill that would bar cities and counties from sanctioning LGBT anti-discrimination laws.
Arkansas state Sen. Bart Hester (R), who sponsored the bill, told BuzzFeed News that creating uniform policies across the state will attract businesses and that he was angered by one city’s repeated attempts to expand rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
“There are many things necessary for stability -- and civil rights need to not be a volatile situation,” he said.
Hester told BuzzFeed News that it isn't just LGBT individuals who are singled out for discrimination. “I am singled out as a politician. I am singled out because I am married to one woman … I want everyone in the LGBT community to have the same rights I do. I do not want them to have special rights that I do not have.”
The bill's stated goal is to improve intrastate commerce by making it illegal for state businesses, organizations or employers to implement or enforce policies outlawing discrimination on grounds not covered in state law. Currently, Arkansas does not have LGBT protections at the state level.
According to Arkansas Online, the small town of Eureka Springs passed an ordinance this week extending discrimination protections to members of the LGBT community.
Nationally, there has been pushback from state legislatures against expanding LGBT rights. It comes as courts have begun to legalize same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court has said it will weigh in on same-sex marriage this year.
Indiana amended non-discrimination rules for state contractors so organizations can hire based on religious preferences. Oklahoma’s House of Representatives heavily supported a bill that would allow clergy members to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. A Florida bill would restrict individuals to using the single-sex public facility, such as a restroom, that matches the gender that person was given at birth, which is a concern for transgender individuals.
But not all local and state governments are working to ban LGBT rights. This week, a five-person town in West Virginia voted in favor of “a new town ordinance extending discrimination prohibitions on employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT individuals.”
Arkansas would become the second state to authorize such anti-discrimination restrictions if Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs the bill into law. Tennessee did so in 2011.
Holly Dickson, legal director at the Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union, told BuzzFeed News that people are not happy about the bill.
“As soon as LGBT people get some protections against being evicted or fired just because of who they love, the state is going to absolutely prohibit them from obtaining that sort of protection,” she said.
The bill, which passed on a 24-8 vote in the Arkansas Senate on Monday, is now on its way to Hutchinson’s desk. The Associated Press reports that the governor said Friday that he will allow the bill to go into effect without signing it.