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Arkansas High Court Blocks Fayetteville's LGBTQ Rights Law

Arkansas Supreme Court

The city can't enforce its law while its case against the state's ban on such protections proceeds, the Arkansas Supreme Court rules.

The city of Fayetteville, Ark., can't enforce its ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled.

The city had sought to enforce the ordinance while it challenges the constitutionality of a state statute that says cities and counties can't have an antidiscrimination law that's broader than the state's, which does not cover those characteristics.

The high court ruled unanimously Thursday that Fayetteville, a liberal university town, can't put its ordinance into effect, the Associated Press reports. It reversed a Washington County Circuit Court decision that allowed the ordinance to remain in force while Fayetteville's suit against the state law proceeded. It did not rule on the constitutionality of the state statute, which was enacted in 2015.

The state Supreme Court had ruled in 2017 that the Fayetteville measure violated Arkansas law, and it cited that decision in Thursday's ruling. "The sole issue over which the circuit court properly had jurisdiction was conclusively decided by this court in our 2017 opinion," Justice Robin Wynne wrote.

Kit Williams, the Fayetteville city attorney, told the AP he would probably ask the court to reconsider the ruling because the city wasn't allowed to present certain arguments. "The city has never had an attempt to defend a citizen-passed ordinance by showing that the state law was an unequal protection of the laws," Williams said. "It seems very strange that they would deny us the right to at least present that constitutional argument to them for their decision."

The Fayetteville City Council adopted the LGBTQ-inclusive ordinance in 2015 and voters ratified it later that year. Voters had repealed a similar ordinance the previous year, after numerous religious right activists, including reality show star, Michelle Duggar, campaigned against it.

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