Kendra Johnson, Arkansas state director for HRC and supporters celebrate at River Front bridge in Little Rock.
Little Rock expanded its non-discrimination ordinance in what many see as a move openly defying the state’s newly sanctified religious discrimination law. Little Rock already protected LGBT state workers. The new policy requires contractors with the city to do the same, something overlooked by state legislators.
Earlier this year the Arkansas legislature came under fire for a proposed law that would have openly allowed people and businesses to deny service to minorities based on ‘religious’ beliefs. A modified version of that was eventually passed complimenting a state law that forbid Arkansas cities to add protected classes.
Little Rock is among several Arkansas cities trying to expand anti-discrimination protections after the state faced a backlash over measures that critics said were discriminatory. Supporters say the move is needed to send a message to businesses that may be scared off by the new laws.
“I’m doing everything I can as a mayor to tell them the city of Little Rock and the citizens of Little Rock in no way believe that’s the focus we should have,” said Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. “The city’s open for business, and is welcoming people of all diversity.”
The author of the religious discrimination law Republican Sen. Bart Heste wasn’t happy about the state’s capital rebelling saying.
“I feel like it runs counter to what our intent was,” Hester said. “Our intent was to have equality where businesses can operate fluidly throughout the state.”