The Washington County Circuit Court has granted the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas’ and the ACLU LGBT Project’s request to join the City of Fayetteville’s case challenging the constitutionality of the Arkansas law (Act 137 of 2015) intended to nullify local civil rights protections for Arkansans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The ACLU moved to intervene on behalf of PFLAG Fayetteville/Northwest Arkansas and three LGBT residents of Fayetteville, arguing that the Arkansas legislature’s attempt to nullify Fayetteville’s local nondiscrimination ordinance (Ordinance 5781) violates their constitutional right to equal protection and would leave them vulnerable to discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
“This attempt to come in and strip away the protections Fayetteville is providing to its residents would violate our clients’ rights to equal protection and leave them vulnerable to discrimination,” said Holly Dickson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “State officials are trying to overrule the will of the voters, and ban local communities from doing the right thing and protecting their LGBT residents from discrimination. That’s wrong and we are very grateful that our clients will be given a chance to work alongside the City of Fayetteville to protect their rights.”
As residents of Fayetteville, Anthony Clark, Noah Meeks, and Liz Petray receive direct protection from the legal protections of Ordinance 5781 and are seeking a declaratory judgment that Act 137 is unconstitutional.
On February 24, 2015, in response to efforts by the City of Fayetteville to enact civil-rights protections for their LGBT citizens, the Arkansas State Legislature passed Act 137, which sought to nullify and prevent all municipal ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of characteristics that are not protected by state law.
In June 2015, the Fayetteville City Council approved a nondiscrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations, which voters subsequently approved.
Earlier this year the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and ruled that the Fayetteville ordinance was incompatible with Act 137. The case has now returned to the trial court, with only the City of Fayetteville’s constitutional challenge to Act 137 remaining unresolved.