A bill titled SB202, prohibiting the protection of LGBTQ rights, passed through the Republican led Arkansas legislature on February 13, 2015. This week, Arkansas Governor Asa Huntington let the deadline pass to either approve or veto the bill. As a result, the bill will become law within 90 days after the Arkansas legislature session ends this summer.
The Arkansas Times’ Max Brantley?says he asked Governor Huntington’s press spokesman, J.R. Davis:
“If there was any chance the governor might change his position to allow the bill to become law, albeit without his signature.”
Davis’s reply was short and decisive:
“The Governor’s position will not change.”
Local activists have questioned the lack of national attention regarding this bill. Especially since a similar bill in Arizona was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer just last year. That bill was denounced by?a diverse group of politicians and corporations such as Delta Airlines, Mitt Romney, PetSmart, John McCain, and Apple. This bill, on the other hand, was barely noticed. The only national celebrity speaking about it was Cher, and even she couldn’t whip up more of a public outcry to help prevent the bill from passing.
Laura Phillips, an activist in Fayettesville, noted that:
?What we haven’t heard from are businesses inside the state, though some of those businesses are very supportive of LGBTQ grassroots organizations.?
Businesses spoke, but far too late. Tyson refuses to speak on pending legislation, while Walmart finally opposed the bill late at night a couple of days before the deadline. Activists called it too little, too late.
“Many LGBT organizations have been slow to respond on state level fights. Mostly I stepped up because I felt like there was not going to be a national response.?
Michelangelo Signorile of the Huffington Post accused the Human Rights Campaign of not fighting hard enough to oppose the bill, although he did place a significant amount of the blame on Chad Griffin, President of the HRC. Griffin released a statement to the Arkansas Times where he said that:
“This bill usurps the right of cities and towns across this state to pass their own local non-discrimination laws and ordinances?a spiteful move intended to deny many Arkansans critical protections under the law. Frankly, I’m not convinced most in the Arkansas legislature even read it before they voted for it, because if they did they would have realized the economic harm it will cause.”
A legal challenge is planned, but LGBTQ activists in Arkansas have another legal battle to fight first, a bill titled HB 1228.?Written by Republican Representative Bob Ballinger,?the Arkansas Times points out that this bill:
“would be more sweeping in barring the state from acting against anyone who claimed a religious belief allowed their discriminatory action against a gay person.”
Let none of us be as silent in this next battle.