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Brown: Arkansas steps backward in LGBT rights

BY MARCUS BROWN | FEBRUARY 19, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Arkansas House of Representatives made a surprising step backward in terms of protecting the rights of the LGBT population by voting in favor of a bill that would prevent the implementation of anti-discrimination policies in cities across the state.

The motivation for this bill has been described as a business incentive, but SB 202 carries much larger implications. What are seeing here is the zealous remnant of a soon-to-be antiquated mentality, and if anything, this is only the beginning.

Nationwide policy change on such a pervasive issue will not come easily. As the inevitable reality of equal rights comes closer to fruition, those in fundamental opposition are beginning to feel the walls closing in. The result is pockets of ardent discrimination among the seemingly placid consensus. When the war can no longer be won, the objective shifts to the individual battles.

The bill in Arkansas is supposed to attract business that may otherwise be deterred by an inability to mistreat LGBT employees. This doesn’t explain why the bill extends to policy outside of the private-industry jurisdiction or why such business practices are worth attracting.

The implicit motivations behind the bill are clear, and all it takes to allow institutional discrimination are well-concealed motivations. Intention and justification can easily be misconstrued to support a larger goal, which in this case appears to be denying equal protection under the law for the LGBT community.

This type of tempered resistance is by no means novel and especially so for Arkansas. Hints of nostalgia from the days of integration are unmistakable. However, this is no Little Rock 9. Legislators are not defying an executive order yet, and the de jure discrimination they are trying to put in place straddles the line of constitutionality.

Protection for the LGBT community, or lack thereof, is not explicitly stated and justifiable from slanted perspectives. However, no matter how well-concealed, it is hard to remain oblivious to such an obvious attempt to block the progression of holistic equality nationwide.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated he intends to neither sign nor veto the bill and, in effect, passively let the potential law become a reality. Resistance to this law will undoubtedly form fast, but that a law of this nature has the potential to come into fruition in the first place is unsettling.

We have come too far as a nation for such discriminatory legislation to take hold on a large scale, but this is not the case for the steadfast minorities more than willing to provide the fertile soil to grow poisonous policy such as this. In this period of transition, stagnant corners of the country will provide the setting for the most vehement opposition to the changes this country is facing as a whole.


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