Battle lines drawn over recent 'anti-LGBT' bills proposed in Ark. legislature

Battle lines drawn over 'anti-LGBT' bills

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The local LGBT community said it is under attack by the Arkansas Legislature, but elected officials say they're just looking out for the safety of all Arkansans.

The community said fifteen bills have been filed in the 91st General Assembly that will impact them in a negative way.

"I can understand one, maybe two, possibly even three, but fifteen," Jake Wideman questioned. "When you really don't have anything better to do, that you can just sit there and write bills that just infringe upon people's basic human rights? Like that's just insane.” says Jake Wideman, an openly gay man.

Wideman, an openly gay man, thinks there are other things the legislators should focus on instead of attacking the freedom of Arkansans.

"There are so many things we could be focusing on, when they're not. Like poverty, healthcare, anything really besides this," he said.

He and his husband Billy got married only four days ago, partially because of concerns that they wouldn't be able to do so in the future.

"He was like, 'what if we get married this weekend while your mom is here, just go down to the courthouse and get our license and have someone officiate it because we don't know if in a month of two, they'll ban it," Wideman said, referring to SJR7.

It is sponsored by Senator Jason Rapert and calls for marriage to be defined in the United States Constitution as between one man and one woman.

Wideman, and many others in the LGBT community say that all fifteen bills are worth being concerned over.

Lorraine Stigar said the recent influx of bills designed to attack transgender or gay people doesn't make the state feel as inclusive as she hopes it would be.

"It doesn't make me feel very safe to be present in the community," she said, adding that many of the bills filed would take away her basic human rights.

Mainly, the so-called "Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Bill," sponsored by Senator Brandt Smith which would allow doctors, nurses, and social workers to refuse treatment to people that may "violate their consciences."

"That really hurts. It hurts that I'm paying tax dollars, and helping out and people are trying to make it more difficult for me to get care," she explained.

The proposed bill, House Bill 1628, would also allow healthcare providers to not be civilly or criminally liable for declining to offers services that violate their conscience unless the patient's life is at stake.

"What's to stop me then, if someone comes in who's got a Confederate Flag tattoo, they've got a KKK tattoo, I'm very against that," Wideman theorized. "I'm against the Confederate Flag and stuff like that. What's to stop me from saying, 'Oh, I don't understand that, so I'm not going to treat you. I don’t want you to die on my table, because I'm compassionate?'"

Another bill, Senate Bill 774, would require everyone in public schools, colleges, and government buildings to use the bathroom of their "designated sex."

It is sponsored by Senator Linda Collins-Smith, who said the bill is something all Arkansans should get behind.

"This bill actually is common sense. This bill is actually about meeting all the needs of the people of the State of Arkansas, in that we protect all the dignity for all people their privacy and security," she said.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Governor Asa Hutchinson, who objected to the previous “bathroom bill,"  is repeating those objections for Collins-Smith’s bill.

Stigar is encouraging members of the LGBT community to have their voices heard at "Lobby Day" at the State Capitol on Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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