District judge orders Arkansas to recognize 500 marriages performed last year


Judge Wendell Griffen

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in Arkansas validated the marriage licenses issued in 2014 to 500 couples.

The licenses were issued after another judge struck down the state’s marriage ban. Arkansas was a marriage equality state for one week until the state Supreme Court halted marriage equality in the state. Unlike bans in a number of other states, including Oklahoma, the stay didn’t go to the U.S. Supreme Court and Arkansas remains one of 13 marriage-discrimination states, like Texas.

However, after this ruling, Arkansas has 500 couples married in the state. Texas only has one. That could change later this month when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Obergefell v. Hodges.

—  David Taffet

Former Arkansas AG condemns ‘religious freedom’ bill, current AG moves nondiscrimination forward

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Arkansas AG Leslie Rutledge

A proposal to add sexual orientation to a list of categories protected from discrimination by state law may go to Arkansas voters if enough signatures are collected, after Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the potential measure, according to Little Rock’s ABC affiliate KATV.

The ballot initiative would be in response to a so-called “religious freedom” bill that would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians if someone claims a deeply held religious belief.

Meanwhile, former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote an op-ed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette condemning the “religious freedom” bill passed this week by the legislature but that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has refused to sign.

“Arkansas is a state where discrimination has no place,” McDaniel wrote. “Our true values are based on compassion and respect and lifting up one another.”

McDaniel believes the law would allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The truth about HB1228 is that it would allow individuals and businesses across this state to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans, to women, to religious minorities — and to any other Arkansan who may face regular discrimination.”

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Hutchinson won’t sign Arkansas ‘religious freedom’ bill

Screen shot 2015-04-01 at 11.24.21 AM

Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced that he will not sign the “religious freedom” bill passed by lawmakers in his state last night, saying that he will instead send the measure back to the state Legislature for changes to make sure that it mirrors a federal law already in place, CNN is reporting.

Hutchinson said he made his decision because he wants Arkansas to be “known as a state that does not discriminate but understands tolerance.”

He also said he is considering issuing an executive order than bans discrimination in the state’s workforce.

Hutchinson had initially said he would sign the religious freedom bill into law. His change of heart came following the firestorm that has erupted over a similar bill signed into law last week by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and after the CEO of WalMart, Arkansas’ largest business, issued a statement urging Hutchinson to veto the bill.

Hutchinson said, “The issue has become divisive because our nation remains split on how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions. It has divided families, and there is clearly a generational gap on this issue.”

CNN notes that Hutchinson said his own son, signed a petition urging him not to sign the bill.

—  Tammye Nash

MORONS MAKE LAWS: Ark. Rep. gives adopted daughter to man who rapes her


State Rep. Justin Harris

Ark. Rep. Justin Harris adopted two girls, but soon after the adoption “rehomed” them, placing them in a home where the six-year-old was raped, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Nothing in Arkansas law prevents “rehoming.” That’s where adoptive parents get tired of the kids they’ve adopted, so they send them elsewhere.

While adoptive parents have to go through extensive background checks and training, none of that applies to the “rehomed” family.

Although he was responsible for caring for these girls, (most gay or lesbian couples I know would say he was privileged to care for them) Harris faces no charges related to the child’s rape. A member of the House Aging, Children and Youth Committee said she had never heard of “rehoming,” but it was a loophole in Arkansas law that needed to be closed.

And just in case anyone thinks big-hearted Harris opened his home to girls in need of a home just for the money, he said he forwarded all money sent by the state for their care to the rapist he placed them with. And doesn’t that make it all just fine?

—  David Taffet

Arkansas bans anti-discrimination laws; is Texas next?


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, allowed legislation prohibiting cities and counties from enacting anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people to pass into law without his signature. Texas Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, left, has introduced a similar bill in the Texas Legislature.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday allowed legislation prohibiting cities and counties in his state from passing statutes and ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination to become law without his signature. The law, SB 202, goes into effect 90 days after the legislative session ends this summer.

Hutchinson said earlier this month that he had “reservations” about the legislation, but not enough to actually veto it. He chose instead to demonstrate those reservations by letting the bill become law without his signature. He did so despite what The Washington Post called mounting pressure from civil rights advocates nationwide.

A press release issued by a coalition of groups including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal and the ACLU declared, “There is nothing but discriminatory intent here. And no valid public interest can possibly be served by allowing private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics that might be covered by local ordinances.” Even Cher skewered Hutchinson in a Tweet, accusing him of “hanging [the] LGBT community out the dry.”

But before all you Texans start looking down your noses at those ridiculous rednecks in Arkansas, be warned: The same kind of bill has been in the Texas Legislature this session. Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas.

According to Equality Texas, “SB 343 would restrict the ability of local elected officials to pass or enforce ordinances, rules or regulations that are not identical to state protections, restricting local governments to only protecting the attributes covered under state law: race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.”

That means that ordinances in Fort Worth and Dallas and Houston and even in Plano that protect LGBT people from discrimination would be, in effect, rendered useless. Of course, it also means that ordinances in Houston, San Antonio and, again, Plano that protect U.S. military veterans from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations would also be effectively overturned. But hey, the vets have already sacrificed for their country one time; surely they’ll be willing to sacrifice their right not to be discriminated against to make sure all us evil LGBTs don’t get any protections. I mean, we are a huge threat to the American way of life, after all.

As I said, Huffines’ bill, if it becomes law, would nullify the amendment adding LGBT protections to the Dallas city charter, an amendment approved last November by 76 percent of Dallas voters. I guess overturning measures overwhelmingly approved by voters — you know, like the amendment to the Texas Constitution banning legal recognition of same-sex marriage, approved by 76 percent of Texas voters in 2005 — is ok as long as you are only overturning things that Republicans don’t like.

—  Tammye Nash

Fayetteville repeals nondiscrimination ordinance

map_of_fayetteville_arVoters in Fayetteville, Ark., repealed a nondiscrimination ordinance passed by the city council in August. The special election was held on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

According to the Fayetteville Flyer, the vote was 7,523 votes for repeal and 7,040 against.

The ordinance prohibited landlords from evicting someone or businesses from firing someone because of sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background, marital status or veteran status.

Voters in Fayetteville repealed a similar law in 1998, according to the city’s newspaper.

So it’s now legal once again to fire someone because he’s a veteran or deny housing to a couple who was legally married in Arkansas earlier this year.

—  David Taffet

Fayetteville, Ark. passes LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance

map_of_fayetteville_arEarly Wednesday morning the Fayetteville, Ark. City Council voted 6-2 to approve a measure protecting LGBT residents and visitors from discrimination in public facilities, housing and employment. It also creates a civil rights administrative position, according to NWO.

The city is the first in Arkansas to add such protections. At the state level, Arkansas does not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The ordinance was not without its detractors.

BuzzFeed reports that Michelle Duggar of TV’s Nineteen Kids and Counting, a prominent backer of anti-LGBT Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.), blasted a robocall alleging that the ordinance would “allow men — yes I said men — to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only.”

Of the three amendments proposed for the ordinance, two passed. The first amendment extended discrimination on religious grounds to include all tax-exempt organizations. The second clarifies that no one may enter a men’s or women’s restrooms with illegal intentions. The third, which failed on a 6-2 vote, would have called for a referendum vote.

“I see a day when we don’t put tags and labels on people and we’re all citizens under the same umbrella of the Constitution of the United States and we all have the same equal rights,” Mayor Lioneld Jordan said after the vote.

The language also adds protections “from discrimination based on real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status.”

It goes into effect Sept. 20.

—  James Russell

Eureka Springs celebrates Arkansas marriage equality with a wedding reception

Eureka SpringsMore than 40 restaurants and businesses in Eureka Springs, Ark. contributed to an event described by one local TV station as the first “mass gay wedding reception in the Bible Belt.”

After the Arkansas anti-marriage amendment was declared unconstitutional, about 500 same-sex couples married in the state before a judge placed a stay on the decision.

The reception was held in Eureka Springs to honor those couples that married.

According to another local TV station, the Eureka Springs City Council called on the Arkansas to offer marriage equality.

Michael Walsh put together the event he titled Married to Equality.

“In addition to being the first city in Arkansas where gay people could get married, we’re the first city in Arkansas to throw them a wedding reception,” Walsh told Arkansas Matters.

—  David Taffet

NOM loses, Idaho governor loses and Ark. attorney general loses, so all appeal


Oregon Atty. Gen. Ellen Rosenblum

Judges in Idaho, Oregon and Arkansas just didn’t seem to be in the mood to listen to state officials today who didn’t care for their rulings. Virginia rolled out the same old, tired arguments that have been struck down across the country in its appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter seems desperate to prevent his state’s same-sex couples from marrying beginning Friday. The trial judge refused to put a stay on her decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

Otter said he would ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay pointing to the “unmitigated disaster” that occurred in Utah after that state’s marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional.

Although he didn’t explain the disaster, he probably meant that about 1,300 couples married in Utah between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay. Those couples’ marriages are recognized by the federal government for tax and benefit purposes. Utah announced that it would allow those couples to file joint state taxes as well.

So you can see what a disaster marriage has been in Utah, but with the Supreme Court stay, Otter is exaggerating by calling the disaster unmitigated. The court mitigated the horror of couples filing their taxes jointly and, in most cases, paying more.

The 9th Circuit is not expected to grant a stay to Idaho. That circuit includes marriage-equality states Washington, California and Hawaii and has ruled in favor of marriage equality in the past. However, the Supreme Court is likely to stay the decision until appeals are exhausted. That may take several weeks.

Speaking of 9th Circuit states, Oregon is the latest state whose marriage law challenge has begun. Last week, the National Organization for Marriage filed papers to defend the marriage laws because the state attorney general declined to defend it.

Today, a federal judge declined to allow NOM to participate in the case.

“This is an Oregon case. It will remain an Oregon case,” U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane said.

NOM plans to appeal the judge’s decision to the 9th Circuit as well. The judge cited Hollingsworth v. Perry, better known as the Prop 8 case. That Supreme Court decision last year said interveners had to have standing. An organization can’t intervene just because they don’t like the interpretation of government officials.

Oregon Atty. Gen. Ellen Rosenblum is representing the state in the case, but she called the law indefensible.

In Arkansas, the attorney general continues to ask for a stay because of confusion over the ruling. The ruling said the state’s marriage law was unconstitutional. Some county clerks have begun issuing licenses while others have not.

The confusion seems to be among county clerks who don’t seem to want to comply with the ruling, not with the couples who read the ruling and went to the county clerks’ offices and asked for licenses. About 400 couples have married in Arkansas already.

Former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee called for the judge’s impeachment.

In Virginia, the state argued that 1.3 million voters passed an amendment. That argument was knocked down earlier this week in Idaho. Virginia also argued the plaintiffs do not have the right to redefine marriage, and they can’t give children a mother and a father.

—  David Taffet

Eureka Springs becomes 1st city in Arkansas to endorse marriage equality

Eureka Springs on Monday became the first city in Arkansas to endorse marriage equality, according to a report from retired journalist Michael Walsh, a resident who authored the city’s domestic partner registry five years ago.

In an email to Dallas Voice, Walsh said he was one of two leaders of a low-profile campaign to persuade the City Council to adopt the marriage equality resolution who spoke in favor of it at Monday’s meeting. Lamont Richie, a former city official and currently a Carroll County Quorum court judge, was blunt about the resolution’s intent.

“This will put you on record as supporting marriage equality,” Richie told the council.

—  John Wright