Arkansas Court Rules City Can’t Enforce LGBT Protections

Arkansas' Supreme Court ruled that Fayetteville can't enforce its ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Today’s unanimous decisions reaffirm the state’s authority to ensure uniformity of anti-discrimination laws statewide and to prevent businesses from facing a patchwork of nondiscrimination ordinances,” Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican who had argued against the ordinance, said in a statement. “These decisions show that the city of Fayetteville is not above or immune from State law.”

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ highest court on Thursday [01/31/19] said a city can’t enforce its ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, saying it’s already ruled the measure violates a state law aimed at preventing local protections for LGBT people.

The state Supreme Court unanimously reversed a Washington County judge’s decision to allow Fayetteville to continue enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance while the city challenged the constitutionality of a 2015 law preventing cities and counties from enacting protections not covered by state law. Arkansas’ civil rights law doesn’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity.

The court in 2017 ruled the ordinance violated the state law. Citing that decision, justices on Thursday reversed Judge Doug Martin’s ruling and dismissed the case. In Thursday’s ruling and the previous decision, the court did not rule on whether the state law was constitutional.

“Because the circuit court exceeded its jurisdiction on remand, its actions following remand are void,” Justice Robin Wynne wrote. “The order denying the preliminary injunction is reversed, and, because the sole issue over which the circuit court properly had jurisdiction was conclusively decided by this court in our 2017 opinion, the matter is dismissed in its entirety.”

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