ASU Gay-Straight Alliance VP reacts to Senate Bill 202 becoming - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

ASU Gay-Straight Alliance VP reacts to Senate Bill 202 becoming law

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A lack of action from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson means Senate Bill 202 is now law.

The bill, named the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, has received criticism from LGBTQ communities in Arkansas and nationwide.

The law will go into effect this summer, 90 days after the legislature adjourns.

It will keep any county or city in the state from adopting anti-discrimination laws that aren't already outlined by state law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1993 bars discrimination for a number of things including race, religion and gender but not sexual orientation.

Region 8 News spoke with a student at Arkansas State who said he fears for the future of equality in Arkansas.

"The fact that it even became law just blows my mind," Mike Reagan said.

Reagan, the Vice President of the Gay-Straight Alliance at ASU said though Arkansas has made progress in equality, regressions have been made too.

In Arkansas, it's legal for a company to fire a person based on their sexual orientation. Housing can also be denied based on sexual orientation.

Over recent months, two Arkansas cities made the push to protect their LGBTQ communities. Eureka Springs passed the law just weeks ago in response to SB202.

Fayetteville passed the law last August. Though Fayetteville citizens later repealed that law in a special election, cities and counties in Arkansas will no longer have the option to pass such legislation due to the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act.

"To think that these things could still happen? Now? It is ridiculous to me," Reagan said.

Reagan said though he is straight, his non-conformity to gender makes him a target as well and SB202 means there's no chance for protection.

"Just to me, even not being LGBT, is terrifying to me that some of my friends, some of my close friends could be discriminated against," Reagan said.

Many LGBT advocates say this new law further allows discrimination.

"It doesn't openly state that you can discriminate but it makes it illegal to pass any more laws that are non-discrimination laws," Reagan said.

However, he doesn't believe the law will be in place for long.

"Future generations will look back on stuff like this and be glad that they were on the right side of history," Reagan said.

he state's largest employer has come out against that new law.

Arkansas-based Wal-Mart criticized lawmakers and the governor for passing it. The company waited until Monday, the deadline for Governor Hutchinson to sign it or veto, despite calls for the company to comment sooner. 

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the law runs against its beliefs and "sends the wrong message about Arkansas."

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