LGBTQ

Stories of interest to LGBTQ Arkansans.

Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Seven months after the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Fayetteville's LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance did not comport with state law, a lower court must now decide if that law is even constitutional.

In Washington County Circuit Court before Judge Doug Martin, lawyers on both sides argued over discovery motions and the right to stay administration of Fayetteville's civil rights ordinance and enforcement commission. In place for two years, the ordinance was established explicitly to protect LGBT residents and visitors from discrimination -- because state law does not. 

Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

Several toddlers huddle under an oak tree on the Harrison town square pretending to burn something.

"P-wish," a little boy says.  "I’m going to light the fire up!”

Their parents stand a few feet away, with roughly 60 other Ku Klux Klan members holding placards as a gay pride parade goes by. The air vibrates with chants and counter-chants, some of the anti-LGBTQ shouts vulgar. The Klan protestors follow the pride procession for several blocks, converging on a local park where parade members are staging a small festival. Protestors are barred from the gated event so take up positions around the perimeter. Many are mothers pushing infants in strollers, children and teenagers, as well as single women, all members of the Christian Revival Center, operated by Pastor and Ku Klux Klan leader, Thomas Robb. 

Washington County

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans don't need special civil rights protections, according to the Arkansas legislature and governor. Act 137 of 2015 bars cities and counties from passing ordinances that "create protected classification or prohibits discrimination" on anyone not covered by the state's existing civil rights codes.

Arkansas's Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other classifications — but not sexual orientation or gender identity. And because several state anti-bullying and domestic violence statutes offer LGBTQ Arkansans protection, opponents say local codes are redundant — codes such as Fayetteville's Ordinance 5781 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

State Act 137 also ensures that “businesses, organizations and employers doing business in the state are subject to uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations.”

But Act 137 has come under judicial scrutiny.

NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS

In emphatic language, the Supreme Court of the United States Monday reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court’s lopsided decision to deny non-birth parents in a same-sex marriage a place on their child’s birth certificate.

In a per curiam order, not a decision, in Marisa N. Pavan, et al. v. Nathaniel Smith, the six-member majority further staked out the court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Tim McKuin

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard a case Thursday that may foreshadow legal battles over LGBTQ protections between state and local governments nationwide.

A 2015 state law banned anti-discrimination ordinances on any basis not already included in Arkansas law. Now lawyers for the state are suing the City of Fayetteville to invalidate its municipal ordinance protecting LGBTQ citizens.

Oral arguments on both sides pivoted on what constitutes an existing protected class in the state constitution.

Major Evan Young, a retired U.S. Army officer, joined the military in 1989 during an era which barred him from disclosing his sexual orientation.

“I was a lesbian at that time so I was used to being in the closet,” Young says.

Just as the gay rights movement was taking root, then-President Ronald Reagan in 1982 issued a stern directive to the U.S. Department of Defense stating that anyone serving in the military who engaged in homosexual acts or professed to be lesbian, gay or bisexual would be immediately discharged.

Pride Day at American Legion Post 114 in Batesville looked a lot like a Tuesday. By mid-afternoon a handful of regulars sat at the bar sipping cold beer and ice water, telling lawyer jokes and staring absently at a Law and Order episode.