Earlier this year the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 137 preventing city or county governments in Arkansas from creating protected classes of citizens not found in state law.
Despite Act 137, four cities along with Pulaski County have passed ordinances extending special protections on the basis of, among other things, sexual-orientation and gender-identity.
Today Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued an opinion on the five local ordinances, saying,
“Act 137 renders unenforceable any ordinance that prohibits discrimination on a basis not already contained in state law. Because current state law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is my opinion that Act 137 renders the five ordinances unenforceable in this respect. . . .
“This language indicates that the General Assembly intended Act 137 to ‘hold the field’ with respect to antidiscrimination law. The Act expressly prohibits localities from regulating in that field. More specifically, the Act effectively prohibits cities and counties from prohibiting discrimination in a way that varies from state law. . . . By removing the cities’ and counties’ ability to enact antidiscrimination laws at variance with state laws, Act 137 clearly holds the field and leaves no room for political subdivisions to act.”
With seventy-five counties and hundreds of cities and towns across the state, it makes sense that policies concerning civil rights and discrimination would be addressed at the state level rather than left up to each individual city council or quorum court.
The opinion comes as early voting begins in Fayetteville, where voters have been asked to weigh in on a so-called “nondiscrimination” ordinance. Even if passed, according to this opinion from the Attorney General, the ordinance would be unenforceable as it is currently written.
We have discussed before how these local ordinances carry a number of unintended consequences. Among other things, they threaten to infringe religious liberty, and some of them even inadvertently allow men to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and similar facilities–and vice versa.
In a ninth undercover video released by the Center for Medical Progress, an official with a company that performs research on aborted babies states plainly, “they’re trying to make abortion illegal, and that’s where we get our tissue.”
The video comes as light continues to be shed on stem cell research that uses aborted fetal remains and the process by which Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers “donate” aborted babies to researchers in exchange for money–something CMP and other pro-life groups are decrying plainly “as selling baby parts.”
You can watch the ninth video below. Warning: The content is disturbing.
According to various news sources, the Freedom From Religion Foundation based in Wisconsin is seeking to place a monument on the Arkansas Capitol grounds that would read at least in part,
“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no Heaven or Hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds. Freedom depends on freethinkers. Keep state and church separate.”
If the wording of the proposed monument sounds familiar, that’s because it is very similar to a sign the group tried to force a city in Michigan to display in 2012.
At that time, the group was trying to combat Christmas decorations the City of Warren had displayed. The proposed sign read,
“At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world, Religion is but Myth and superstition that hardens hearts And enslaves minds.”
The sign was rejected by local officials who found it inconsistent with the Christmas decorations the city displayed. The group sued the city, but lost when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled there was no need to place an anti-religion sign alongside a Nativity scene and other Christmas decorations.
This latest move by the Freedom From Religion Foundation appears to be an attempt to counter the proposed Ten Commandments Monument the Arkansas Legislature authorized for display on the State Capitol grounds earlier this year. If the Sixth Circuit court ruling is any indicator, however, it seems unlikely the State of Arkansas can be forced to put up an anti-religion display without legislative approval.