LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to prevent a city from enforcing an ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, her office said Friday, months after justices ruled the measure violated a law aimed at banning local protections for LGBT people.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a notice that she’s appealing a Washington County judge’s decision last week to deny the state’s request for a preliminary injunction against Fayetteville’s anti-discrimination ordinance. In February, the state Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that said the ordinance didn’t violate a 2015 Arkansas law prohibiting cities from enacting protections not covered by state law.
Arkansas’ civil rights law doesn’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
Justices in February sent the case back to the lower court and said they couldn’t rule on the state law’s constitutionality since it wasn’t addressed in the lower court. Rutledge and opponents of Fayetteville’s ordinance have argued the fight over the law’s constitutionality could take months to resolve, so the local ordinance should be blocked in the meantime. A spokesman for Rutledge declined to comment beyond the notice filed Friday.
Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams said the state and opponents so far have failed to show how anyone has been harmed by the ordinance remaining on the books.
“They can point to no business that’s been denied its wish to discriminate against gays and lesbians, no landlord that has said, ‘Oh … now I can’t evict my gay and lesbian tenants.’ So there really has been no showing whatsoever of any irreparable harm that’s in reality to any Fayetteville citizens or businesses because this ordinance has been in effect,” Williams said.
Fayetteville is one of several cities that approved local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in response to the 2015 state law. In their unanimous ruling in February, justices rejected the argument from Fayetteville and other cities with such ordinances that their measures are legal since protections for LGBT people are covered elsewhere in state law.
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