Arkansas Hates the Gays: On SB 202 & HB 1228

In case you have no idea what is going on in Arkansas:

(TL;DR version – The people who passed bills like SB 202 and HB 1228 actually live in the Dark Ages)

Last year, Fayetteville, the city that houses the University of Arkansas, proposed an ordinance that would extend civil rights (i.e., the protection from being fired, protection from being kicked out of rental property, etc.) to LGBT persons in the city. It was a hotly contested debate that ultimately failed, unfortunately.

However, this spurned a wider debate in the state government. What ended up happening follows as such: The Arkansas Senate passed the bill named, simply, SB 202. The Arkansas House passed the, “Conscience Protection Act,” or HB 1228. Both bills prevent local communities from passing equal rights ordinances that have not already been passed. Essentially, this is an effort to keep the LGBT community as oppressed as possible.

The authors of these bills “believe” that their religious freedoms were under attack. As in, “Woe is me! It would be against my religion to provide services to persons that ‘violate my religion,’ because all gays are going to Hell! And they’re nasty because they’re not like me!”

They passed these bills under the guise that Christianity is under attack from an outside source. If you were to ask them, they would probably identify one of the sources as a socialist, Muslim guy who lives in D.C. Or they might say there is a larger, non-religious strain developing in America. But the real reason is that they are white men who are afraid of things getting better for people not like them. The people at the “top,” who perceive themselves to be at the “top,” do not want things to get better for people who have purposefully been placed at the “bottom.” These folks have had the privilege of being in control for a long, long time. And what it all boils down to is this: they do not want you to have the same rights and privileges as them. And they hide this idea by burying it under another idea that they are protecting fundamental rights. Never mind that religious rights are already protected by the federal government. Never mind that businesses already have the right to refuse service to anyone, because they are private businesses, and are not applicable to being punished under the law in doing such.

In fact, because equal rights ordinances are not on the books in so many cities and states, it is well-documented that you can already be fired or kicked out of your housing for being a member of the LGBT community. This is proof that people who believe that serving LGBT persons is a violation of their religious freedoms already have the right to discriminate against persons of that community. HB 1228 and SB 202 are redundant in that sense.

The most ironic things about HB 1228 and SB 202 fall under the ideas of big government and free market systems. These are the same people that cry that government is, “Getting too big!” Another part of that mantra is, “The government does not need to do anything! If something is not meant to be, the capitalist free market system will shut down the bad practice on its own!” Yet, here we see a government that is larger being used to stifle smaller, more voter-based governments. Here we see them turn away from their market-based ideas. If they stuck to their guns, and really believed the LGBT community was evil and going away, there would be a cry that the free market would shut down the LGBT community, because the free market shuts down all things that are not good for democracy and capitalism and America and freedom and Jesus.

But the key is this: somewhere, deep in their hearts and minds, the people that passed SB 202 and HB 1228 know that equality is coming. They see that they are on the losing side. They violate their “deeply held beliefs” because they know if they want to keep the status quo, they are going to have to kick and scream to keep it. And here is another ironic thing about this situation: it will produce multiple court cases. The side that fights for lower taxes and limited spending for all tax-paying citizens, will have to waste taxpayer money to defend their laws, which will be shut down in some court in the future.

It is too late to reach the authors to ask them not to follow through on their bills. It is too late to ask Governor Hutchinson to veto the bill, even though Wal-Mart said it was the right thing to do (WAL-MART GAVE A LESSON ON MORALITY!). The bill, in the near future, will be law in my home state. And, until court cases happen, it will remain that way.

The good news is that cities are already moving to pass new ordinances before the bill becomes law (it has 90 days to take effect, from the date of adoption). Conway, home to UCA and Hendrix College, has already done so. Eureka Springs has done likewise. A petition has started in North LIttle Rock, which you should sign immediately, to do the same.

My only hope is that the authors of the bill see the damage they have done very quickly. If they cannot see how they are actually causing people a great deal of pain, maybe they will see the damage when large businesses change their minds about coming to Arkansas. Maybe they will see the problem when Wal-Mart and Tyson refuse to play ball and back the side of equality. Maybe they will see the damage done when small businesses that they frequent refuse to serve them.

Final note: This will not reach any of the people who agree with HB 1228 and SB 202. By that, I do not mean that one of those persons will never read this, but rather that it will not reach them mentally or emotionally. They are apologists for their way of life. They will be able to explain away the large government and free market criticisms. They will be able to say that, even if this irritates big businesses, it is righteous because it supports the “little guy,” who is the backbone of the American economy and way of life. They will say they do not know a single gay person (so much more to say here, but that is for another post/sermon), but they do know plenty of God-fearing Christians who are under attack from the Left.

::BIG SIGH:: But what can we do except keep on talking about this kind of stuff.

Update: HB 1228 failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee today! (2/25/15)

Update: HB 1228 was put back through committee, was passed through committee, and was passed by the Arkansas Senate today (3/27/15). I would encourage you to contact Governor Hutchinson and let him know how you feel. Let us hope that Fortune 500 companies keep threatening to leave the state so that our “pro-business” governor gets the idea that this is wrong.

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