From bill protecting clergy refusing to conduct gay marriages to law defining gender as binary, several states attempt to beat back rising tide of acceptance
Jessica Glenza in New York
Friday 13 February 2015
As the US supreme court’s deliberation of same-sex marriage draws closer, lawmakers in several states are attempting to reign in other civil rights recently granted to the LGBT community.
Conservative lawmakers from Kansas to Florida are working to repeal anti-discrimination laws, stop new ones from being enacted and expand laws on religious freedom.
On Thursday in Oklahoma, the state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for a bill which would protect members of the clergy who refuse to perform same-sex marriages. The bill now passes to the state Senate.
In Arkansas, the state’s 35-member Senate has passed a bill barring municipalities from creating protected classes. The law is reportedly part of a backlash against city council members in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where a law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation passed before being repealed by referendum.
State lawmakers are touting the bill as an Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, which would create legal uniformity. It is unclear whether Arkansas’ governor, Asa Hutchinson, will sign the bill into law.
“People are very upset,” said Holly Dickson, legal director at the Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union, told BuzzFeed News. “As soon as LGBT people get some protections against being evicted or fired just because of who they love, the state is going to absolutely prohibit them from obtaining that sort of protection.”
In Florida, Republican House member Frank Artiles introduced a bill that would bar transgender people from choosing a bathroom. Instead, the law defines gender as binary and declared “at birth” as either “male or female”. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and be sued. Artiles says the legislation is a meant to protect people in bathrooms, places of “increased vulnerability”.
That bill is also in response to local legislators protecting the LGBT community. The Miami-Dade board of county commissioners passed an ordinance that bars discrimination on the basis of gender expression.