FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (BNG) — The Arkansas state senate has passed legislation sponsored by a Southern Baptist lawmaker making it illegal for cities to adopt local ordinances banning discrimination against gays. Freshman Sen. Bart Hester, a deacon at First Baptist Church of Bentonville, Ark., said the law basically means that civil rights in Arkansas are to be determined on a state level instead of a city-by-city. The rationale, he said, is that making hiring and firing standards uniform statewide makes it simpler for employers deciding where to open a business. Most, however, view it as a reaction to an attempt by city officials in Fayetteville, Ark., to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity that voters rejected in a special referendum supported by leaders of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Opponents called it a license to discriminate against LGBT people in Arkansas.
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