LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas asked a judge Friday to block enforcement of a city ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, months after the state's highest court ruled the measure violated a law aimed at prohibiting local LGBTQ protections.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and a group opposed to the Fayetteville anti-discrimination ordinance asked Washington County Circuit Judge Doug Martin to issue a preliminary injunction against the measure. The state Supreme Court in February reversed a ruling that the ordinance didn't violate a state law prohibiting cities from enacting protections not covered by state law. Arkansas' civil rights law doesn't cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
Justices sent the case back to Martin's court and said they couldn't rule on the state law's constitutionality since it wasn't addressed in the lower court. Rutledge and Protect Fayetteville said in the court filing that the fight over the law's constitutionality could take months to resolve, so the local ordinance should be blocked in the meantime.
"If a preliminary injunction is not issued, enforcement of Fayetteville Ordinance 5781 will prevent the state of Arkansas from fully implementing the purpose and goals of the Interstate Commerce Improvement Act," the filing said. "Prevention of the state's policy of statewide uniformity in antidiscrimination law constitutes irreparable harm."
Attorneys for Fayetteville did not immediately return messages seeking comment late Friday afternoon. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which represents LGBTQ residents in Fayetteville who have intervened in the case, said it would oppose the effort to block the ordinance.
"Fayetteville's ordinance has been in place for nearly two years. There is no need for an injunction against it and we will oppose their request," ACLU of Arkansas Legal Director Holly Dickson said.
Fayetteville is one of several cities that approved local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in response to the 2015 law. In their unanimous ruling in February, justices rejected the argument that Fayetteville and other cities with such ordinances have made that such protections are covered elsewhere in state law.