Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Equality on the march in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Hot Springs

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2015 at 6:51 AM

click to enlarge 11150430_554317951372667_4380969187592284289_n.jpg

Tuesday was a fine day for the constitutional promise of equal protection under the law.

First there was, of course, Judge Wendell Griffen's ruling that those 500 couples married in the brief taste of equality following Judge Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling last May were married. Honestly, I don't see how the state — through its anti-gay attorney general Leslie Rutledge — can do other but seek to set this ruling aside. 500 couples are able to enjoy the fruits of marriage enjoyed by heterosexual couples but not others? It's the essence of unequal treatment under the law. The Arkansas Supreme Court could end this manifest injustice, if justice and not politics was its lodestar.

But that's not all. From Hot Springs City Director Becca Powell on Tuesday:

Know you're leaving on vacation, but one nice victory to report. Opposition against our city's recently passed (6 to 1) anti-discrimination ordinance tried to force a referendum vote. They failed to meet the deadline for petitions today. The ordinance stands - Hot Springs welcomes everyone! It's another good day for civil rights.

And from Fayetteville, where a streamlined and now widely supported city civil rights ordinance was introduced at a City Council meeting last night. The message is from For Fayetteville, which is pushing the ordinance it hopes to passage and then approval at a September referendum.

Tonight two more aldermen signed on to co-sponsor the Uniform Civil Rights Protection ordinance. Thank you, Mark Kinion and Sarah Marsh for your support of all Fayetteville's residents.

They join Matthew Petty and Adella Gray as sponsors among the eight aldermen. Gray had told me previously that she feels comfortable about committed support from some others, including one member who was in the minority on the 6-2 vote that approved the last ordinance that was repealed by voters. The ordinance could get a reading next week, though opponent Alderman John La Tour tried last night to delay the process by urging that the ordinance go first to a council review committee, as sometimes is done with complex ordinances.

Eureka Springs remains, of course, on the leading edge of the spear of equality. Its city leaders talked yesterday about taking the initiative to force a legal resolution to the state law championed by virulent anti-gay legislators to strip cities of home rule so as to preserve legal discrimination against gay people. Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter has built an impressive case that the drafters of the law 1) screwed up by failing to notice existing legal protections for gay people in the law and 2) are defeated on a broader basis by the U.S. and Arkansas Constitutions, with their ringing declarations of right of equal treatment for all.

For a brief moment, we may put out of our mind that Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, the entire Arkansas congressional delegation and the majority of its legislators are firmly committed to discrimination against gay people. For comfort, turn to opinion polling that demonstrates Arkansas, as usual, lagging behind the rest of the country, particularly among the rising generation.

They can take their comfort from Sen. Jason Rapert, sure his brand of religion should be the state religion of Arkansas. He took to Twitter to say after Griffen's ruling:

The Arkansas Court System is better than this. Restore integrity and quit mocking the will of the people.  

Also Rapert quoted approvingly a negative comment about Griffen on account of the fact that he had participated in same-sex marriages. Does any judge take a case on which he or she might have some previous opinions about some of the matters at issue. They all do. The point is that they must be guided by law and Constitution and rule in their decisions. That Judge Griffen did.

You may be sure Rapert wouldn't object to a gay-hating judge like Shawn Womack taking a same-sex marriage case and deciding AGAINST the plaintiffs. THAT would be the height of judicial ethics. And now that I mention it: How will Womack, if elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court, take such cases given his avowed support for making criminals of homosexuals and denying them rights granted others, such as adoption?

I had this thought in the early morning: Think of the happy photos in Eureka and Little Rock during the brief window of marriage equality. Multiply that by thousands of happy people — gay and straight — should equality finally prevail in Arkansas.

And then think of those who will cry out in protest, the Raperts and Hesters and them. Won't their numbers be smaller? Won't they be people happy primarily because of the misfortune of others? Will Asa Hutchinson want to run into the street smiling, fist-pumping and cheering the righteousness of a court decision that preserves discrimination in Arkansas? Will he clip the news headline and mail it off to Apple and Google and similar to say, "Lookee here. Our priorities are in order. Come to Arkansas! Discrimination rules! We are open for business, for some people anyway."

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