LGBT rights in Arkansas

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LGBT rights in Arkansas
Arkansas (US)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 2002
Gender identity/expression Altering sex on birth certificate requires SRS
Discrimination protections None statewide
Family rights
Recognition of
None statewide
Arkansas Constitutional Amendment 3 limits marriage to man/woman, places restrictions on non-marriage types of same-sex unions
Adoption Legal since 2011

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Arkansas face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Arkansas. Same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all of the protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

In 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court in Picado v. Jegley found that the state statute that made sexual relations between people of the same gender a criminal act was unconstitutional because the law violated a fundamental right to privacy and failed to provide the equal protection of the laws.[1][2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Constitutional ban[edit]

Arkansas has banned the recognition of same-sex marriages, as well as civil unions and any other status similar to marriage, since the passage of Constitutional Amendment 3 by voter referendum in November 2004.[3]


On July 2, 2013, 11 same-sex couples, some of whom had married in Iowa and some of whom were registered as domestic partners in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, along with two of their children, filed a lawsuit, Wright v. Arkansas, in Pulaski County Circuit Court challenging the state constitution's definition of marriage and its denial of recognition to same-sex unions established in other jurisdictions. It named nine state officials and several country clerks as defendants. They claimed violations of their rights to privacy, due process, and equal protection, as well as the full faith and credit clause.[4][5][6] Following arguments on April 17, 2014, Judge Chris Piazza announced his intention to rule within two weeks.[7]

On July 15, 2013, a similar lawsuit, Jernigan v. Crane, was filed in federal court by two lesbian couples, Becca and Tara Austin and Rita and Pam Jernigan.[8]

Initiative to repeal constitutional ban[edit]

On June 27, 2013, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, Arkansans for Equality submitted proposed language for a 2014 ballot measure that would repeal the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.[9] On July 9, 2013, a different group, the Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality (AIME), which was formed in November 2012, submitted to the Arkansas Attorney General proposed language for the Arkansas Marriage Equality Amendment, a similar ballot measure but instead for the 2016 ballot.[10][a] Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected the proposal for the 2014 ballot on July 12 and again on August 12, and the proposal for the 2016 ballot on September 18 and October 7, each time citing problems with the wording.[11][12][13][14] On September 19, he accepted the proposal for the 2014 ballot[15] and on November 7, he accepted the one for the 2016 ballot.[16]

Local recognition[edit]

The small town of Eureka Springs in Carroll County is the only incorporated place in Arkansas to allow domestic partnerships (since 2007) and healthcare coverage for domestic partners of city workers (since 2011).[17] On November 12, 2012 Eureka Springs became the first city in Arkansas to endorse marriage for same-sex couples by a vote of the city council.[18]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure in November 2008, effective January 1, 2009, to prohibit by statute cohabiting couples who are not in a recognized marriage from adopting and providing foster care.[19] On April 7, 2011, in Arkansas Department of Human Services v. Cole, the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously found that the measure "fails to pass constitutional muster" because it "directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights of 'opposite-sex and same-sex individuals' who engage in private, consensual sexual conduct in the bedroom by foreclosing their eligibility to foster or adopt children, should they choose to cohabit with their sexual partner."[20]

Discrimination protection[edit]

Map of Arkansas cities that have sexual orientation anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

Arkansas law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[21]

The cities of Fayetteville[22] and Little Rock[22] both prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation only.

Hate crime[edit]

Arkansas has no hate crime statute that attaches penalties to criminal convictions when motivated by bias,[23] but a state statute does allow victims to sue for damages or seek court-ordered relief for acts of intimidation, harassment, violence, or property damage "where such acts are motivated by racial, religious, or ethnic animosity", not sexual orientation or identity.[24]

Gender reassignment[edit]

Arkansas law permits transsexuals born in Arkansas to amend their birth certificates upon receipt of a court order verifying that they have undergone sex-reassignment surgery and that their names have been changed.[25]

Public opinion[edit]

A June 2013 survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Target Point Consulting found that 36% of Arkansans supported legalizing same-sex marriage, while 55% opposed it. Among respondents below the age of 30, support was at 61%. The survey also found that 63% to 61% supported employment discrimination protections, by respectively state and federal legislation.[26]

In January 2014, a Talk Business and Hendrix College survey showed that 21.5% of likely voters supported same-sex marriage, 24% supported civil unions, and 50% opposed any form of relationship recognition.[27]


  1. ^ The text submitted reads:[10]
    (Popular Name)
    The Arkansas Marriage Equality Amendment
    (Ballot Title)
    An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to provide that the right to marry shall not be abridged or denied on account of sex or sexual orientation - providing that no member of the clergy or religious organization shall be required to provide accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges relating to the solemnization or celebration of marriage and that the refusal to do so shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.
    (Proposed Constitutional Amendment)
    Be it enacted by the people of the State of Arkansas:
    Section 1. The right to marry shall not be abridged or denied on account of sex or sexual orientation.
    Section 2. No member of the clergy or religious organization shall be required to provide accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges related to the solemnization or celebration of marriage. The refusal to do so shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.


  1. ^ "Arkansas Sodomy Law". Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  2. ^ American Psychological Association: "Jegley v. Picado 80 S.W.3d 332", accessed April 7, 2011
  3. ^ CNN: Election 2004 - Ballot Measures, accessed April 7, 2011.
  4. ^ Petrimoulx, Drew (July 2, 2013). "Gay Couples Challenge AR Laws on Same Sex Marriage". Arkansas Matters. Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  5. ^ Rodgers, Barndon (July 3, 2013). "Lawsuit filed to overturn Arkansas Gay Marriage ban". Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  6. ^ Pulaski County Circuit Court: Wright v. Beebe, July 2, 2013, accessed July 3, 2012
  7. ^ Ring, Trudy (April 17, 2014). "Ark. Marriage Ruling Likely in Two Weeks". The Advocate. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Federal lawsuit challenges Arkansas same-sex marriage ban". Arkansas Times. July 15, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Arkansas group seeks to overturn state's ban on same-sex marriage". LGBTQ Nation. June 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Arkansas Group Submits Proposal for Marriage Equality". Ozarks First. July 10, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Ark. AG rejects language of proposed repeal of anti-gay marriage amendment". LGBTQ Nation. July 12, 2013. 
  12. ^ "McDaniel rejects gay marriage ballot measure". ArkansasOnline. August 12, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Ark. AG rejects wording on same-sex marriage ballot proposal — again". LGBTQ Nation. September 18, 2013. 
  14. ^ "AG Rejects Wording of Gay Marriage Amendments". Edge. October 8, 2013. 
  15. ^ "AG Accepts Ballot Title Proposal to Repeal Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage". Arkansas Matters. September 19, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Arkansas attorney general approves marriage equality ballot language". Equality On Trial. November 8, 2013. 
  17. ^ Bolcer, Julie. "Eureka Springs to Offer Partner Benefits". Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  18. ^ Brantley, Max (2012-11-14). "Arkansas Times Blog - November 14, 2012". Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  19. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "Same-Sex Marriage on the 2008 Ballot," November 6, 2008, accessed April 16, 2011
  20. ^ Metroweekly: Chris Geidner, "Arkansas High Court Strikes Down State's 2008 Adoption Ban," April 7, 2011, accessed April 7, 2011
  21. ^ "Arkansas Non-Discrimination Law". 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  22. ^ a b "Municipal Equality Index". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved November 21, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Arkansas Hate Crimes Law". State Laws & Legislation. Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Hate Crime Laws". Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Arkansas Birth Certificate Law: Gender Identity Issues". 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  26. ^ "Progress in Arkansas" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. July 8, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Poll: Arkansans may support private option, split on gay marriage". The City Wire. January 21, 2014.