Legislator says state isn't 'obligated' to recognize gender identity of transgender Arkansans

Lawmakers battle over state's gender image

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Arkansas legislature continue their effort to look at several anti-LGBT bills that deal with gender identity and same sex marriage. 

On Thursday, House Bill 1894 failed in the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor. The proposed bill would remove language in the law that allowed those who underwent gender reassignment surgery and changed their name were allowed to amend their birth certificate to reflect their gender.

Even though the bill failed, state Representative Mickey Gates (R-Hot Springs) still stands firm that his bill is needed in Arkansas.

"Just because you have the right to identify doesn't mean the state is obligated to recognize the way you feel,” Gates said.

Though many bills have been introduced this legislative session, same-sex marriage, bathroom choices, and birth certificate changes have brought up concerns not only in the LGBT community, but all across Arkansas as well.

Gates said that by allowing someone to change their gender on their birth certificate bill it could allow a person to change other aspects of themselves.

"If I decided I don't want to be a white, well, do I get to pick my race," Gates asked. "If I need a loan, do I get to pick my gender so I can qualify for a rate?"

Gates also feared that the failure of his bill will leave unclear boundaries around the state.

"So, what happens if you have a guy and he’s 24-years-old and he decides he wants to be a 14-year-old guy," Gates theorized, "so that he can have sex with a 14 year old girl? Will that not be rape?”

Those we spoke with against the anti-LGBT legislation are concerned that our state could be going backwards, mimicking actions in North Carolina.

Two armed forces veterans spoke in opposition to the bill at the committee meeting on Thursday. Ray Nelson, a transgender woman said that if HB1894 becomes law it is "state sanctioned discrimination."

"I have always known that I was a woman, but I have tremendous amounts of fear and anxiety surrounding 'male' having to remain on my birth certificate," Nelson said to the committee.

Verizon Arena and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau recently came out against a "bathroom bill" that was introduced by state Senator Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas).

Joe David Rice, director of the state's Department of Parks and Tourism, thinks these anti-LGBT bill would tarnish the state's image.

"The governor has come out stating that it's going to set Arkansas back and that's what we're concerned about in tourism," said Rice. "This is the kind of deal that could cause major conventions, concerts, and events to cancel in Arkansas.”

North Carolina passed similar legislation and the outcome has not pretty for the state.

"The bathroom bill across the nation has this perception of being a step backwards. It's discriminatory and makes the entire state look bad,” Rice said.

Gates said that his main goal was just to make sure vital records stay true and accurate, but Rice added that he thinks these proposed bills would only make matters worse.


Collins-Smith bathroom bill, SB774, will be heard on Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. We will keep you updated on all the proposed bills in the 91st General Assembly.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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