Little Rock, AR – A state bill designed to “protect the rights and privileges granted under the Arkansas Constitution and the United States Constitution, and to declare American laws for American courts” may cover a broader scope than its proponents are advertising.
HB 1041, introduced by Rep. Brandt Smith (R – Jonesboro), invalidates court rulings if they are based “in whole or in part” on foreign bodies of law that do not grant parties a particular set of “fundamental rights, liberties, and privileges granted under the Arkansas Constitution or the United States Constitution.”
The enumerated rights include: due process, equal protection, freedom of religion and speech and press, the right to privacy, the right to bear arms.
Other states have introduced similar legislation based on the theory that Sharia, or Islamic law, is pervading American legal and judicial systems and that the threat of Sharia must be eliminated.
HB 1041 has not been without its opponents: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) questioned the effectiveness of the proposed law, asking if proponents are “aware of any examples in America, or specifically Arkansas, where a court relied upon some non-American law and in the course of that reliance has abridged one of these rights that the bill is seeking to protect?” Even Rep. Smith was quoted as saying that his bill is not specifically targeted at Sharia.
Other opponents cry foul that the bill was designed with another purpose: creating legal barriers against members of the LGBT community.
The last “fundamental right” listed in the bill is the right to marry, as defined by the Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 83, which banned same-sex marriage in Arkansas and was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. This right in particular is included five times in the proposed legislation.
Opponents are concerned that HB 1041 creates a means by which the state of Arkansas could theoretically deny legal protections to same-sex couples, citing other states as “foreign” entities when recognizing marriage licenses obtained in those states.
The bill is currently under review by the state Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Image: Arkansas Legislature / Rep. Smith Facebook