John M. Becker

Anti-Gay AR Lawmaker's Brother Slams LGBT Rights Ban

Filed By John M. Becker | February 17, 2015 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: anti-discrimination law, Arkansas, Charlie Collins, Christianists, Donald Collins, education, HRC, religious exemption, religious freedom, religious privilege, special rights, Walmart

collins-brothers-arkansas-sb202.jpgLast week, lawmakers in the GOP-dominated Arkansas legislature passed SB 202, a bill that would make it illegal for cities and counties to pass anti-discrimination ordinances that protect more classes of people than are covered under state non-discrimination law. The bill is intended to prevent communities from enacting LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances.

Governor Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, has declined to sign the measure but also refused to veto it, which will allow the odiously bigoted bill to become law without his signature. Only one other state, Tennessee, has such a law in place.

But in stark contrast to the national outcry from activists, businesses, and politicians that scuttled Arizona's attempt to pass a "right to discriminate" bill last year, the silence from the business community in Arkansas has been deafening. National LGBT leaders and political figures, including Arkansas natives Hillary and Bill Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign's Chad Griffin, have largely kept quiet about SB 202 as well.

Local LGBT equality advocates aren't staying silent, though -- they're organizing protests and social media campaigns calling on Governor Hutchinson to veto the bill. And now, the gay brother of a prominent SB 202 supporter is speaking out against the measure as well. Details, after the break.

Arkansas state representative Charlie Collins, a Republican, represents a district that includes the city of Fayetteville, where the city council last year adopted an historic LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. Opponents of the measure, assisted by reality TV star and famously prolific mother Michelle Duggar, gathered enough signatures to force a ballot repeal referendum, which narrowly passed in December after an ugly campaign filled with lies and anti-trans fear-mongering.

Rep. Collins spoke out against Fayetteville's LGBT-inclusive ordinance and campaigned hard to repeal it. Shortly after proponents of fairness in Fayetteville floated the idea of reintroducing an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance in a future city council session, SB 202 was introduced in the Arkansas General Assembly in order to block the city -- and any other community in the state wanting to take a similar step -- from doing so.

donald-anthony-collins-family.jpgOn Friday, Rep. Collins voted to approve SB 202 -- another slap in the face to the state's LGBT community. That didn't sit well with Donald, his married gay brother (pictured here with husband husband Anthony and pups Napoleon and Rimbaud), who penned an open letter denouncing his sibling for supporting discrimination:

"Rather than working for fairness and support by following the lead of more than 300 major US businesses that have adopted inclusive, non-discriminatory protections because they know it's good for business, my brother and the other Arkansas legislators who voted for SB202 chose to move their state backward with a bigoted, hurtful bill that... is a reactionary one in the face of growing acceptance and political power of the LGBT community. What's incredible to me is that my brother supported this bill even though he has a gay brother and a lesbian sister.

"I think it's also important to note that while my brother spoke in support of the Repeal 119 group in November and actively campaigned as one of Fayetteville's state representatives in December he was simultaneously coordinating a visit with my lesbian sister to host, assist and tour his daughter around Seattle where my niece was being interviewed for an entry-level position by a top Fortune 100 company at which my sister works, and incidentally, receives the company's legal protections and benefits for herself, her wife and their two boys. These are the same types of anti-discrimination policies my brother campaigned to repeal...

"I think it's inconsiderate, hypocritical and rude for Charlie to accept the assistance of my sister, who has been out as a lesbian in the business community for more than 25 years, while at the very same time undermining the types of protections and benefits she and her family enjoy. Thanks in part to his effort if she lived and worked in Fayetteville, and soon possibly all of Arkansas, she might not have a job, and if she did, her wife and their two boys would not have the benefits and protections they have today. The same fate would apply to me."

"I realized in the middle of my sadness and frustration," Donald Collins adds, "that my brother has a vote, but I have a voice." (Read his full letter here.)

In related news, the national workplace equality group Freedom to Work is calling on Wal-Mart -- the largest private employer in Arkansas -- to speak up in favor of a veto on SB 202.. The group's president, Tico Almeida, released the following statement:

"Wal-Mart has recently been given high praise and high scores from the LGBT advocates who publicly rate corporate responsibility. As the largest private employer in Arkansas, Wal-Mart should publicly call for a veto of this bigoted legislation and lobby the Governor to stand on the right side of history. If Wal-Mart remains silent, I hope the corporate giant will be downgraded in the eyes of LGBT consumers and LGBT organizations alike."

Almeida is referring to the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, a widely-used resource that aims to measure the LGBT-friendliness of major corporations. Wal-Mart currently has a rating of 90 out of 100 points, but the company's silence in the face of this attack on LGBT Arkansans speaks volumes about the sincerity of its commitment to LGBT workers and their families.

Photo of the Collins family via Donald Collins.
Graphic via vetoSB202.com.

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