Arkansas court strikes down LGBT anti-discrimination protections

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The Arkansas Supreme Court has struck down a local order protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

LGBT people in Arkansas are vulnerable as there is currently no federal law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and no statewide protections.

The city of Fayetteville had passed a local LGBT rights ordinance in 2015 that included vital protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment and public accommodation.

However, despite winning approval from voters in the city, the local law was tossed out today by the Arkansas Supreme Court after a legal challenge.

The ordinance had affirmed that “right of an otherwise qualified person to be free from discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity is the same right of every citizen to be free from discrimination because of race, religion, national origin, gender and disability as recognized and protected by the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993″,

However, the court tossed out the protections, which they asserted were in breach of a Republican-backed state law signed last year aimed at tackling LGBT rights protections.

The ruling says: “The Ordinance specifically states that its purpose is to ‘extend’ discrimination to include ‘sexual orientation and gender identity.’

“In essence, [the city ordinance] is a municipal decision to expand the provisions of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act to include persons of a particular sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This violates the plain wording of [the state law] by extending discrimination laws in the City of Fayetteville to include two classifications not previously included under state law.”

It claims that this “creates a nonuniform nondiscrimination law and obligation in the City of Fayetteville that does not exist under state law”, creating an “direct inconsistency between state and municipal law”.

LGBT activists have reacted with fury.

Human Rights Campaign Arkansas state director Kendra R. Johnson said: “Let’s be clear, the state’s preemption law is unconstitutional.

“This ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court is an attack on LGBTQ Arkansans and takes away hard-won protections approved by voters in Fayetteville.

“Fayetteville’s leaders and citizens chose to protect their friends and neighbors when their representatives in Little Rock would not. Removing these protections leaves LGBTQ people without local, municipal or state protections, putting them at heightened risk of discrimination as they simply go about their daily lives. We oppose this harmful ruling.”