Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, and ten other sponsors filed a bill in the Arkansas Legislature today to expand the state’s civil rights act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure is similar to a bill that was filed in the 2015 session.
HB 1797 adds four words to the state’s 1993 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
Other bill sponsors include all Democrats – Reps. Eddie Armstrong, Charles Blake, Lee Ann Burch, Clarke Tucker, Vivian Flowers, Deborah Ferguson, David Whitaker and Sens. Linda Chesterfield, Uvalde Lindsey, and Will Bond.
Leding tells Talk Business & Politics that the measure is needed to send a signal that all people anywhere in Arkansas will be treated fairly.
“The LGBTQ community needs to know that there are lawmakers in office who support them, that support equality,” said Leding. “Quite frankly, I think it would be good for the state to brand itself as more inclusive. Major corporations have fought attempts to discriminate in other states because they understand when they’re trying to recruit talent to their state in addition to people checking out school systems and the cost of living, whether or not they’re going to feel welcomed and supported is a major consideration. In Arkansas, we want to get some of the best talent here.”
Leding says the bill can help provide clarity to cities that have passed non-discrimination ordinances, such as his hometown of Fayetteville, which saw an ordinance struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court due to a conflict with state law preventing municipalities from superseding state statutes in those instances.
When the bill will run in committee is still undecided. Leding said it could be next week or the week after.
“While I’d like to see this bill pass, I will frankly be surprised if we make it out of House committee. But I think it’s a conversation the legislature needs to have,” he said.