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Arkansas Act 137 (SB 202) Does/Does Not Mean What it Says:The Irony is Exquisite

The Arkansas Times blog reports that, according to Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter, Little Rock’s proposed anti-discrimination does not conflict with the recently enacted Act 137 (AKA SB 202). That’s because Act 137 prohibits creating a new protected class or category of discrimination “not contained in state law.” Carpenter points out that several provisions of state law already protect the categories listed in Little Rock’s ordinance including sexual orientation and gender identity.

I am not sure whether Carpenter is correct but the irony meter is off the charts right now. Carpenter shows that a literal reading of the act allows what is supporters were attempting to prevent: civil rights protections for LGBT folks. This is ironic enough but it gets better. The United States Supreme Court is considering King v Burwell, a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, where the people bringing the challenge argue that a snippet of language will undo the effective operation of the insurance exchanges. I suspect that many of the same people who support Act 137 want the ACA to be read literally but Act 137, not so much! Of course, that may true for the other side but the irony is more exquisite for conservatives who repeatedly claim that courts should not “make law” and simply accept a statute’s plain meaning without any interpretation. Here the fate of Act 137 may hang on whether or not a court is willing to look beyond the literal language of the act.

Carpenter’s citation to Burwell v Hobby Lobby is just rubbing it in (as was his citation to Citizen’s United).

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