LGBT rights in Arkansas

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LGBT rights in Arkansas
Map of USA AR.svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 2002
(Picado v. Jegley)
Gender identity/expression Altering sex on birth certificate requires SRS
Discrimination protections None statewide
Family rights
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage legal since 2014
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 marriage in Arkansas became legal through a court ruling on May 9, 2014,[1] subject to court stays and appeals.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

In 1838 Arkansas instituted the first statute against homosexual activity with a provision which read: "Every person convicted of sodomy or buggery will be imprisoned in the state penitentiary for not less than one year nor more than 21 years." This legislation was subsequently amended in 1977 to penalize only homosexual acts, or sexual acts occurring between humans and animals; but in effect decriminalized sodomy by making it a Class A misdemeanor.

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.[2][3]

On April 4, 2005, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 85-0, in favor SB 984, a bill repealing laws against sexual acts among same-sex couples. On April 7, 2005, the Arkansas State Senate passed, by a vote of 35-0, in favor of the bill. Governor Mike Huckabee signed the bill into law, which went into effect on April 12, 2005.[4]

Same-sex marriage in Arkansas[edit]

Arkansas bans same-sex marriage in both its state statute and state constitution.[1]

On May 9, 2014, Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Chris Piazza issued a preliminary ruling in Wright v. Arkansas that found the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. On May 15 he issued a final ruling that enjoined enforcement of the state's statutes prohibiting the licensing and recognition of same-sex marriages as well. The Arkansas Supreme Court stayed his ruling while it hears the appeal in the case.[5]

In another lawsuit in federal court, Jernigan v. Crane, on November 25, 2014, Judge Kristine G. Baker found the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and stayed her ruling pending appeal.[6]

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.[7] 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."[8]

Discrimination protection[edit]

Map of Arkansas cities that have sexual orientation anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely 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.[9]

The city of Eureka Springs[10] prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public and private employment. The city of Little Rock[11] prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation only in public employment.

Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act[edit]

On February 9, 2015, Arkansas State Senate passed, with 24 voting in favor, 8 voting against, and 2 not voting, SB202, the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, a bill that would prohibit counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions in the state from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances that cover private employment only that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law. On February 13, 2015, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed, with a 58 in favor, 21 voting against, 14 not voting, and 7 voting present. An emergency clause to the bill was rejected by the House also.[12]

Hate crime[edit]

Arkansas has no hate crime statute that attaches penalties to criminal convictions when motivated by bias,[13] 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 gender identity.[14]

Gender reassignment[edit]

Arkansas law permits transgender people 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.[15]


  1. ^ a b "Arkansas judge strikes down state ban on same-sex marriage". Reuters. May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Arkansas Sodomy Law". Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  3. ^ American Psychological Association: "Jegley v. Picado 80 S.W.3d 332", accessed April 7, 2011
  4. ^ SB984
  5. ^ "Gay marriage on hold in Arkansas following new ruling". Time. May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ Snow, Justin (November 25, 2014). "Federal judge strikes down Arkansas same-sex marriage ban". Metro Weekly. Retrieved November 25, 2014. 
  7. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "Same-Sex Marriage on the 2008 Ballot," November 6, 2008, accessed April 16, 2011
  8. ^ Metroweekly: Chris Geidner, "Arkansas High Court Strikes Down State's 2008 Adoption Ban," April 7, 2011, accessed April 7, 2011
  9. ^ "Arkansas Non-Discrimination Law". 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  10. ^ Eureka Springs quickly passes anti-prejudice law
  11. ^ "Municipal Equality Index" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved November 21, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Arkansas Hate Crimes Law". State Laws & Legislation. Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Hate Crime Laws". Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Arkansas Birth Certificate Law: Gender Identity Issues". 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2013-11-02.